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Auroville

One for All, All for One

‘Analytical report submitted to Discover India Programme Committee, FLAME for partial fulfillment of Discover India Programme six credit course.’

Research Team:

Aalisha Sheth

Abhik Basu

Atisha Lama

Harsh Solanke

Kabeer Kathpalia

Malvika Bhagwat

B.A. Namrata

Phuntsog Dorjee

Richa Sheth

Ruhi More

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Prasad Vanarase

FLAME School of Liberal Education, Pune Foundation for Liberal and Management Education

2010-2011

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Authentication Certificate

This is to certify that the work incorporated in this report, entitled “Auroville – One for all, all for one” submitted by the undersigned research team was carried out under my mentorship. Such material as has been obtained from other sources has been duly acknowledged.

Research Team

- Aalisha Sheth

- Abhik Basu

- Atisha Lama

- Harsh Solanke

- Kabeer Kathpalia

- Malvika Bhagwat

- B.A. Namrata

- Phuntsog Dorjee

- Richa Sheth

- Ruhi More

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Prasad Vanarase

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Table of Contents

The Auroville Charter

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And suddenly, there was light

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Introduction

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CHAPTER ONE: Money money everywhere, yet not a single rupee to spare

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Economy

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CHAPTER TWO: An Uncommon Supremacy

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„The City of Dawn‟ in the making

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Validating the Ideology

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CHAPTER THREE: A Sucker for New Age ideas

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Go Green!

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Getting Started

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Double Dilemma

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CHAPTER FOUR: Love thy Neighbors

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Don‟t bite the hand that feeds you

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Fishy Village

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Through the eyes of Ramesh Macha

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CHAPTER FIVE: Mad Angles

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Town Planning and Urban Design

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CHAPTER SIX: Brewing for the perfect coffee

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Conclusion

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Epilogue

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Pre-research

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Primary data

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Works Cited

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Bibliography

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Acknowledgements

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The Auroville Charter

1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to

live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.

2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that

never ages.

3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all

discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations.

4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an

actual Human Unity.

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The dot at the centre represents Unity, the Supreme; the inner circle represents the creation, the conception of the City; the petals represent the power of expression and realization

1 Auroville Symbol; Aurovilla, a universal city in the making

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And suddenly, there was light.

A flash as brilliant as a thousand supernovae appeared right before my eyes, quietly but imposingly. This light was not of the white kind that is often seen in todays power saving „tube lights. It was more of the yellow kind warm, gentle and homely. I had no time to recover from this sudden shock for I was bombarded by another, far greater one.

There she stood before me, in all her glory. Golden and smiling, she patiently looked at me. “I am here. I always have been. It is only now that you are too. Ask, and you shall be answered little one!” said The Mother.

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Introduction

The aspiration of a utopian society is just as tempting as it is illusive. The most brilliant of thinkers - economists, sociologists, politicians and scientists have debated and theorized of the creation of a perfect society for centuries and yet they fall short of truly experiencing one.

Adam Smith theorized that it‟s possible with the laissez-faire economy and although most of the world is close to achieving the free market economy, it is no closer to utopia. Marx went to the other extreme, and that too proved to be much more competent when left to the confines of print instead of the real world.

Yet, with a similar giddy optimism that undergraduate students, like ourselves, possess about the future of the world, we jumped at the thought of Auroville - an experiment aimed at realizing a utopian society. The preconceived notions that that were present in our minds at the time were those of a peace loving society, where people are content and families blossom; where there is no discrimination, no hatred, no crime and no pollution. Perhaps something Bob Marley would sing about. Add to that the proximity of Pondicherry, an old colonial French town, known for its exquisite food and cheap beer; we had few reasons not to go to Auroville. It fit the perfect college time exploration.

During the course of our initial research, we realized that the trip to Auroville promised a lot more than youthful, mindless revelry. Auroville, with its enormous spiritual and transcendental background, is an unending spiral of human spirit, innovation and co-habitation. The intention was to have a good time while experiencing a cool place. Though it did not take much time to realize that the journey, not to mention the experience, would be incomplete without a comprehensive rethink on the notions and ideals we held for a fair and just society today.

Auroville is not just an alternative township; it is alternative way of living. The purpose of life is different, the way one reasons is different. Competition is for the sake of excellence, not one‟s

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triumph over the other; education is to equip the spirit, not for a certificate degree. With such radical differences, it became impossible to study the Auroville experiment from a conventional point of view. It‟s impossible to develop an objective outlook with these; a truer approach would perhaps begin with changing our eye pieces.

We decided a good starting point would be to have a broad topic or question that we would like to understand or answer once we go there. After many discussions and even more arguments, we agreed that we would like to understand the connection between the Mothers philosophy and its implications for everyday life, into town planning, and into the cultural and economic structure of Auroville. We were also interested in looking at Auroville as a model for sustainable townships, and how it was trying to reach its ideals.

Our discovery of Auroville began with the simple discovery of ourselves. A spiritual peek inside at the ideals we stand for before we looked at a society aspiring for utopia. The playful ideas we had of the trip before we went to Auroville became mere shadows of the dancing thoughts of spiritual discovery and awakening that we found ourselves in the middle of once here.

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CHAPTER ONE

Money money everywhere, yet not a single rupee to spare

It had been a tough day. The rain was as spasmodic as ever, changing its mind every couple of minutes. My bike was out of fuel. And money? What money? Luckily, the solar kitchen was not a long walk. Nothing was a long walk here in Auroville. How things had changed for me in the last three years. The shift from big time CEO to less than small time potter had been a challenging one, to say the least. Three years back, my gas guzzling, chauffeur drivencar would have come to my rescue, but not today.

drivencar would have come to my rescue, but not today. Where was the mechanic? The service

Where was the mechanic? The service unit people have always been punctual. Service unit- Does that even mean anything outside of Auroville? It‟s like a taxpayers dream. I know that this service that is being provided is being funded by at least some part of the money that I put in to the common pot, the Central Fund. The rain is really getting heavy now. Maybe the mechanic wasn‟t going to be able to make it. I surely wouldn‟t expect him to come. Poor guy hardly gets any money. Just because they call it maintenance does not mean that they can reduce the regular salaries of people. The commercial units have it easier. At least they can earn their own money

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based on their work, and there is always room for expansion. There is always the incentive to be better since better means richer. The poor mechanic will not get a higher maintenance if he starts fixing bikes better. Sure, he gets his basic necessities taken care of by the community, but it‟s not quite the same is it? No one wants to live on charity, even if he is providing a service to the community.

If only the damn phones worked in this place. You would think that for a place that depends so much on the outside world, one would have invested in some good telephone connections at least, right? I smiled. What am I talking about? Dependence and investment are words to the Aurovillians like coins are to Bill Gates completely useless. I came to Auroville trying to convince the „Economy group‟ (the group that is in charge of Auroville‟s economic structure) that partnership with the outside world was not a bad thing, that they should change their policies a little bit, allow new blood into the system, propagate growth. But here I am today, alone on a mushy road, with my fuel-less bike, and some clay in my bag.

Maybe I should write to my brother in Hyderabad (phones obviously do not seem to work). My financial empire is waiting for me to come back and take charge. I have no worries like that you know. I could merely step out of Auroville, take a flight back to Hyderabad, be picked up by my chauffer driven sedan, and I would be back to being normal.

I don‟t know why I haven‟t done that so far. How on earth did I decide to become a potter? I hated art class in school. How did this happen? Was it the energy? Was it the spiritual sensitivity that I felt here? Or am I just trying to escape from reality? Was I just tired of that boring corporate life, not feeling satisfied and content? Suddenly, I saw a light in the distance. Maybe the mechanic did finally make it. The light became brighter and brighter. Strange. That did not look like a headlight. Wonder what it could be.

Bang.

Dazzling lights. Brilliant colors. Golden warmth.

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Okay. That was not the mechanic. Suddenly, I saw her. She stood before me in the rain. She was wearing white robes, kimono like. Her head was covered with a delicate thin white cloth. Her eyes were bright and intense. She did not have to say anything. I knew why she was here.

Oh Mother. You say that this place will be a place for human evolution; a place where our

spiritual journey shall evolve. But all I see here is elitism and divide. This looks like a club for

the rich, for the governments of different countries are funding most of the activities. You

say you don’t want there to be any currency circulating in Auroville but ask for money from

them. How does this all make sense?

Economy

We sometimes tend to forget how we reached the state we are in now, what were the decision

that lead us here, and where would we like to go. Civilization is the awesome result of

convenience, profit and chance. We often wonder how to change, or edit what we already have,

but maybe we are asking the wrong question.

Auroville, during its conception, did not ask how they should edit or change the system that was

prevalent throughout India and most of the world. Auroville in a sense went back to

fundamentals, the foundations, a platform where assumptions were not yet made, a place where

habit and complacency had not yet set in a blank slate.

Ideally speaking, Auroville aspires to become a place that is self-sustaining, a place where in

principle, there is no exchange of money. "For in this ideal place money would be no more the

sovereign lord. Work would not be the means of gaining one's livelihood, it would be the means

whereby one expresses oneself, developing one's capacities and possibilities, while doing at the

same time service to the whole group, which on its side would provide for each one's subsistence

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and for his field of work." 2 In principle is the key phrase here. Auroville has certainly not reached that state but has many facets that are precursors to it.

As an alternate for traditional currency, account numbers are given to Aurovillians that are linked to the central account. Aurovillians are expected to give a monthly contribution to the community. They can also help the community by working for it through various community services. People who provide these services are given maintenance. It is just enough to sustain oneself. It is can be considered a salary to some extent. The maintenance provided to people is almost uniform through Auroville.

The statement above likely forms the crux of Auroville. It suggests that community actually has a far more concrete and tangible meaning in Auroville than it probably has in other places. Firstly, the community is something that reacts back to the individual. Auroville is willing to take full responsibility of people who do not have any possessions or income. The community provides them for so that they can live a spartan, yet dignified life. Hence, one will never see a member of this community begging. The individuals on the other hand are willing to contribute to the growth of the community. Take the Community shop Pour Tous in Auroville, for example. Here, everyone deposits a pre-determined sum every month based on what they think their needs are. Now, it is not that they will use this complete amount every month. They may probably use two-thirds of it for the first month. The remaining money goes into the common pot. Now, the next month, say they have some guests coming to their house and they need extra salt. They can overshoot their monthly deposit. Maybe they spend two times it that month. All this works because of a special condition, a condition that created Auroville and one that sustains it - choice. Everyone who comes to Auroville wants to live in this manner. One who wants to can very easily take advantage of the system, but no one does. Everyone believes in the system, a system they all together agreed on, at least for most of the part. There is trust in the other.

This common pot that is being mentioned here is officially called The Central Fund. It was started in 1989 to support Auroville‟s services and other collective responsibilities. The money in this Central Fund comes from various sources. A large amount comes from Commercial units

2 Overview; Auroville, a universal city in the making

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(units which manufacture goods). The Commercial units have to contribute at least 33% of their profits to the Central Fund. Apart from this, each Aurovillian must contribute Rs.1500 to the „Central Fund.‟ Aurovillians who have money from other sources can, and in fact, do contribute a lot more. Money that has been earned previously, fortunes that have been amassed, often go into this fund. Guests and guesthouses provide another source of income for the Central Fund. An interesting point is worth mentioning here. Even though the guesthouses are extremely cheap and available to everyone, the transaction takes in paper currency. This just shows that when there is any interaction with the outside world, The Mothers vision is tainted. This is probably the main reason why she wanted Auroville to be completely self-sustaining, starting with basic necessities like food, clothes and shelter. However, while food and clothes are provided for (actually they are barely provided from within Auroville. They must be taken from outside as Auroville is neither self- sustaining in food nor in clothing), land is not. Land must be bought, and even then cannot be owned. We shall delve into this more at a later point.

Coming back to the Central Fund, it provides money to support community services like the Solar Kitchen, Nandini (where all clothes are free for a monthly contribution of Rs.250), The Free store and Mahasaraswati‟s Free Store (free exchange center), farms, Forest (maintains the forest), Education, Roads and Traffic, Health care, Dental Centre Treatment, AV security, Information Centre, News and Notes (publication), Pitanga (multipurpose Auditorium), Housing repair Service, Vehicle repair service, Electricity, collective transport, Youth Centre (cultural hub), Aurofilm (film society), etc. As one can observe, this Central Fund can be considered the localized equivalent of taxes. However, the Central Funds scope is far beyond just taxation. As mentioned before, it provides for people who cannot provide for themselves. It not only provides essentials like electricity and Health care, but also encourages cultural and social activities such the Youth Center and Aurofilm. This tells us something about the focus and purpose of this Central Fund. It is not tax collection. Tax collection is used to better the city, generally in terms of infrastructure and the like, but here, there is direct connection with the needy individual. This only works because of the tiny size of Auroville, which leads to accountability and proper allocation of resources. Basic necessities like food are provided. There is cultural enrichment. Whether this will remain like this when 50,000 people come and live in Auroville as projected is an important question that must be addressed. Nevertheless, at the present moment, this kind of

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communal economic system affects all spheres of one‟s life. This allows people who are trained as dentists to follow their hearts passion and become chefs. This system allows for an environment where competition does not mean opposition However, this can almost seem like a sort of communistic regime, where everyone is put on the same level, may it be the westerner from outside or the local from the neighboring villages. The only difference is that there is no apparent restriction on how much one can earn. The commercial units can earn a substantial amount more than the people who receive maintenance. Money still brings money here.

If you are rich when you come to Auroville, you can set up a commercial unit and become

richer. If you are poor when you come, then you simply cannot. Is this in accordance with

your philosophy, O mother?

Many people have other businesses outside Auroville, businesses that provide an income that one could not possibly earn even through commercial units. Such people generally contribute a great deal of this to the Central Fund. Although this would seem like a very benevolent gesture, the feeling from inside Auroville is that such people are the „black-sheep of Auroville. The people who are completely living in Auroville with no outside ties seem to have some kind of negative judgment for these people; people who they believe have not fully understood the philosophy of Auroville completely.

Auroville aims to home 50,000 people someday. This can prove to be hard as there is no private ownership. The Auroville Trust owns all property. People who want to start something, or even build a house, must put in their own money to buy it, but cannot own it. In one way, this is like saying that if you are not a hundred percent sure that this is where you would like to live, and this is what you would like to do, do not come. This too is against the basic spirit of Auroville that claims to promote individualism an exploration. Because of such restrictions, outside investors will never come to Auroville.

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This brings us to the most important point of all, a summation of all the economic problems that Auroville faces now, and will face later. The age demographic that is growing the fastest is between the ages of 60 and 70. That is not an optimistic sign for a young establishment such as Auroville. This older population has been in Auroville almost since its conception. They already have homes in Auroville. New people, on the other hand, find it very hard to come to Auroville. Not only is the maintenance insufficient to allow anyone to start something new, but it is also only given to Aurovillians.

Furthermore, there is an admission process to become an Aurovilian. One must stay in Auroville for six months to just get a newcomer status. Only after this, will the entry group consider to make one an Aurovilian. This will take another couple of years. Now, how is someone supposed to sustain himself or herself for this period? If they have no previous money, and are young, they have no way to buy a house in Auroville. It is simply too expensive, especially since you cannot sell it later. Young people hence do not come to Auroville. The population is slowly becoming more skewed towards the elderly. Only the rich can afford to come to Auroville. This is primarily the reason why Auroville can be perceived as an elitist club, a club where membership is not easily given, and a club where the poor cannot enter. “Auroville has only a small economic base and newcomers often cannot find suitable work in the commercial units or in the services. If they can, the levels of maintenance' paid Rs 5,000 for those who work full-time for Auroville's services, a bit more for those who work for commercial units are just sufficient to cover basic living costs, but not to pay for a house, or for paying-off a loan” 3 said a report about the Auroville economy.

The negative attitude that Auroville has towards business and commerce probably stems from the popular notion that business and spirituality are mutually disjoint. Whatever the truth might be in this opinion, there is absolutely no doubt that when a system is concerned, a system involving a community, a group, there is the need to interact and exchange. Money is merely a convenient way to measure this exchange. It does not have to be paper currency. A country in Europe had once decided to use flowers instead of paper, but the underlying concept still remained the same. Money represents (or ideally should represent) the return one is getting for

3 Flash News Today- Online News Magazine; Auroville

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the contribution he or she is making. How the contribution is measured is definitely a grey area, something that needs to be addressed in the present day and age, but removing money all together may not be the best solution. Creating a mutual credit clearing system (more mentioned below) is one solution. The problem with this in pertinence to Auroville is that Auroville does not manufacture everything it needs. They need to buy from outside Auroville. Hence currency that is acceptable outside is required. This removes the possibility of having a special internal currency.

There is a small community called „Sadhana forest‟ on the outskirts of Auroville. Even though is technically a part of Auroville, it is a community in itself. Now this place has a no concept of money. There is no exchange of money, either through accounts or with the outside world. They are almost completely self-sustaining. This is what one might call a local, decentralized self- sustaining community. Everybody must work there, may it be farming or cooking or cycling to generate electricity. If the outside world would one-day disappears, this place would still function in a very similar way it is functioning now. The only place where there is some exchange of money is when there is a need to expand and grow. Sustenance is achieved but growth requires outside help. This is a very interesting experiment too. They have managed to create a system that is complete by itself, but for the system to grow, nourishment from the outside is required, almost like a plant. Did Auroville start of like this? Through various interviews we discovered that this was indeed the case. Many of the initial Aurovillians wanted an economy like this. One reason they couldn‟t stick to it was Auroville had needs that could not be met by Auroville alone.

The Auroville charter states that Auroville is supposed to be a place for spiritual and material research. This means that there should be growth in both these segments. But it seems that while spirituality is given great importance, the materialistic part is almost treated with disdain. It can be debated that material research is a meant in a more scientific manner here, but that is just one interpretation. Material research could possibly mean developing new ways in which a society grows. New business models can be explored, ones possibly even without money, but commerce cannot be ignored as it is being done presently.

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In conclusion, it is true that conventional money has its various problems, especially at the local

level. These problems lead to the lack of choice, the inability to work in what one likes, and most

importantly, create debt and dependence. Take for example the plight that small time traders, businessmen or workers have to go through to lead a decent, respectable life. They often have to borrow money from those that possess it (debt), and take huge risks to move to the next level in the chain. If you succeed, well and good; you live to fight another day. But if you fail, you go right at the bottom of the pyramid at which point the only way you have to get up again is to borrow again. This may be the most skeptical view of present day capitalism, but the point is that in today‟s national economy where you have a single producer of currency in the country (the Reserve Bank), it is tough to deny that those who possess capital are not unduly favored right from the beginning.

Auroville has understood that these problems are a consequence of a national currency. It has tried to create a mutual credit clearing exchange system, where when one sells something (good

or service) his or her account is credited and when he or she buys something; his or her account

is debited. Statistics suggest that this system works well for Auroville. 66% of Auroville‟s total

revenue comes from commercial and service units, 14% comes from Aurovillians and newcomers (people who are in the admission process and are staying in Auroville), 14% from guesthouses and guests from outside and only 6% from external funds. 4 Auroville‟s unique economic system is proving to be one that really needs further investigation to see if it is replicable elsewhere. Maybe this kind of decentralized communal economy is just what the world needs today. Also, initiatives like Pour Tous, the Free-store, Nandini, etc. help to reduce any kind of economic polarities.

A thought worth considering is the fact that Auroville cannot manufacture everything it needs

within itself, such as a scooters and bikes, and so buys them from outside. The truth is that Auroville will never be able to manufacture these things, as they require factories, and large- scale industries. We did see some electrical cycles on the roads, but not many. Auroville should work on producing all needs internally, and produce them in a way such that they do not have to compromise on their ideals. This will probably only work within a small community like

4 City Services Yearly Financial Report; 1 April 2009 to 31 st March 2010

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Auroville is right now. With 50,000 people, it might be hard to mass-produce their needs (of course, the simplest but harder solution would be to reduce ones needs). This is one option. The other is to accept the fact that there is a need for them to transact with the outside world and hence they must find ways to allow new blood into the system. Partnerships with the outside world can prove to be useful.

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CHAPTER TWO

An Uncommon Supremacy

“Oh! Come on you guys. Let‟s be reasonable. We all can‟t have it our way.” I was amidst a major debate, the outcome of which was going to leave a significant impact on the course of my near future. We had been starving for hours together, now, and our unfed egos had consumed all our values of consideration and mutual respect.

Since the past 40 minutes, we were fighting over a choice of restaurant for dinner and it suddenly seemed like a millennium goal. We were 10 in number and descended from diverse regions of our country. Every time we came close to selecting an option, someone from the group would make a fuss.

We had limited fuel and cash in hand. I looked at the dark road, which had no streetlights and I looked at my watch, “Damn!”

I remembered our professor instructing us “In Auroville, it gets real dark at 6. Get back in time or else you shall lose your way back to the student hostel.”

Time was racing and we had a deadline to meet. On this occasion, I could repeal my religious status from being an atheist to an agnostic if the Divine were to help us find a solution. I smirked to myself, “We are in a situation just like Auroville”.

It happened a few days ago. While flipping through the Readers Digest, my eyes had stopped on

a golden body, circular in design, inscribed upon which were the words “Auroville- The City the Earth needs”.

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It instantly caught my attention and I started reading further. At first glance, Auroville appeared as the ultimate destination for mankind - a place that carries enlightenment and consciousness in its air and where all the queries to the purpose of life, death and identity would be resolved. Then I read the words “Divine Anarchy”, I immediately made a connection- It reminded me of Robert Nozaics “State, Anarchy and Utopia”.

I summated all these words in my head and what got created was a blue print of an egalitarian political society, with a heaven-like aura. But yet, the fact that one could personify all these attributes into a tangible arrangement was something that my incorrigibly cynical mind found hard to believe. I had made up mind; I had to go to Auroville.

An amusing definition occurs to me: a divine anarchy. But the world will not understand. Men must become conscious of their psychic being and organize themselves spontaneously, without fixed rules and laws that is the ideal. For this one must be in contact with one's psychic being, one must be guided by it and the ego's authority and influence must disappear5 The Mother

After undergoing countless economical, psychological and physiological fractures, reaching Auroville, quite literally, became a truly „liberating experience.

From whatever literature I had read on Auroville, I had gathered that it was a universal „city

and had attached a visual quality to the term city. It will probably be very high tech, modern, cemented and structured place, I remember thinking to myself It will probably be very high tech, modern, cemented and structured place. The milieu that I was faced with however, was that of a dense forest, with dancing fireflies, where all I could hear apart from the chime of the insects, was the resonating silence of humans. It was twilight when I had my first encounter with Auroville. To my surprise, Auroville appealed to me in its physicality. After reaching the student guesthouse, we dropped our luggage and set off on our bikes to explore our immediate vicinity. We had decided our destination but parted ways along our journey and very soon we found ourselves facing the same problems that this place did.

5 The Mother on Auroville

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‘The City of Dawn’ in the making

‘The City of Dawn’ in the making 6 Auroville as incepted by its Godfather and Godmother

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Auroville as incepted by its Godfather and Godmother (Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa) was a Universal township that followed no forms of dictatorship or hierarchy for its governance. It was envisioned to be a place for a critical mass and not a critical class. There would be no bindings of race, class, culture, nationality or economic prowess and the purpose of life was to gain eternal consciousness. Power would be vested in the hands of all and would be but a tool to suspend justice and maximize the welfare of the community.

Organizationally, Auroville was to remain a self-governed autonomous community that is not regulated by any set of rules or regulations or any officiating body but by a higher psychic consciousness that guides the Residents Assembly to perform their individual functions. For

issues that not just concern the individual but the whole, the decisions taken by the Residents

Assembly, collectively, would become final and binding. As suggested by the Mother, Auroville was to follow such a form of social governance.

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Validating the Ideology

The Mother said collective living but Mother also said great, Roger do the garden like this. Now but the collective is saying, ―oh, but we don’t quite like it, so which one of the two are we sticking on to? There are 60 people discussing issues and the discussing remains at the discussion level and this methodology is not working. The youth see no implementation of these discussions and hence they have no faith in the Council. Self-governance has not yet become each one’s self-governance. If it had we didn’t have to be managed as a community

– Anita, Member of L’Avenir d’Auroville

One of the humongous challenges that Auroville as a community faces is the actualization of the Mother‟s vision into its tangible form whilst resisting the clash of interest between those who view Auroville as an ultramodern township of the future and those who subscribe to Auroville as a sustainable, eco-friendly and symphonic shrine of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. „Authority‟

7 Dream Catcher’s Presentation; Dr. Mona Pingel

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and „decision-making‟ have always have been an issue of concern for Aurovillians. Sri Aurobindo had handed over the charge of the smooth functioning of Auroville into the hands of the Mother. Thus the all-knowing Mother through her intuitive intelligence would take major decisions for Auroville and its future. However after the death of the Mother, the authority of decision-making wasn‟t handed over to a particular successor nor was a formal committee appointed to carry forward the Mother‟s role and responsibilities. Ideally, the Residents Assembly should have taken upon them the task of developing Auroville‟s then nascent progress. However Auroville‟s custody became an issue of concern for the planning committee, the landowners and at a later point the Government of India. This alienated the Resident‟s Assembly from its authority and their will and contribution towards the decision making process gradually weakened.

This shift in the process of decision-making also made radical shifts in the very quintessence of Auroville. Auroville for all its inhabitants became a mosaic of several imageries- a township, a cult, a futuristic city, rich man‟s abode, a parasite on its surrounding areas, Mother‟s abode and so on. Auroville thus has fragmented into multiple versions of its own reality- from that a sacred city, to a place whose actions are monitored by the GOI to a spiritual resort for the bourgeoisies.

Even today, the process of decision making thereby suffers heavily as the vision of Auroville as seen by its inhabitants does not hold a singular identity. The Residents Assembly is never easily agreeable to the vision of Auroville as proposed by the planning committees. Over the years due to the declined participation of the Residents Assembly in matters of decision making has lead to the accumulation of power in the hands of the town planners who subscribe to a mechanical rather than a spiritual version of Auroville.

The conflict between restoring the philosophy of the Mother and becoming the “city of the future” is visible through the stagnancy of growth due to the laid back process of decision- making. Auroville‟s identity from an eagle‟s perspective is that of a universal town in the making, which is surrounded by multiple under developed villages in a state of south-India rather than a city created towards the perseverance of human unity. There persists a need for

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Aurovilians to manage and look beyond internal polarities between developing and remaining nostalgic, and finally resonate as a whole as opposed to widespread disjointed versions.

―The freedom we want to realize in Auroville is not license — each one doing what he pleases without concern for the well-being of the organization of the whole.‖ 8 The Mother

Auroville has no laws of the Land. However it prescribes Aurovillians to maintain sufficient levels of sanitation and strictly proscribes drug intake. Smoking is allowed at private spaces while there is a strong recommendation to curb the practice at open community spaces.

Auroville does not have a formal system of punitive action. Depending on the degree of crime committed Auroville in liaison with the Indian Police Force takes suggestive actions. Minor infringements are resolved internally without interference from Indian Police while for major infringements such as murder, robbery or misappropriation, Auroville, is accountable to criterions of the Indian Law and hence the procedures of the Indian Penal Code are thereby applicable to the offenders.

One could look at Auroville as having the most complex societal structure or the humblest of all. The concept of a society at Auroville is palpably different than found anywhere else. Auroville constitutes of residents from multiple nationalities and thus the idea of a society is the amalgamation of all these multiple versions of the term. Aurovillians share common public spaces like community housing, community kitchens, community toilets, community recreational spaces and so on. There are no social norms and policies that Aurovillians are liable to. As suggested by The Charter, Auroville promotes a liberal and self-governing life for its residents. The focus here is more on the individual‟s spiritual growth through self- consciousness. Individuals choose and create their own relationships rather than attesting to any form of social institution. The idea of marriage at Auroville is a function of will, trust and companionship rather

8 Auroville: The future futureless

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than bondages of legal ties. Auroville has no formal or informal mechanisms that promote procedural marriages as elsewhere. No local bodies or priests are dispensed to commence or conclude relationships that are based on will and desire. Similarly if individuals wish to terminate ties with each other, no third party is entitled to interfere in such interactions. However Auroville offers rebuilding mechanisms in the form of Resident‟s Welfare Service Groups to individuals or groups who are unkind towards each other.

Finally, I thought it would be interesting to mention that children born at Auroville do not become Aurovillians as a function of their birth. They too are expected to follow the entry requirements as laid down by the Entry Groups. Individuals who aspire to become full time Aurovillians have to undergo a series of admission prerequisites as laid down by the Auroville Foundation Act 1988. This just says that Aurovillianism is not enforced upon anyone. Everything boils down to choice. And the funny part it, it works. Everyone lives their own individual lives but the community together still remains in harmony. There has been hardly any crime in Auroville. Is this because of the spiritual environment that is omnipresent? in place? Is it a function of the small size of Auroville? Is it both? Well, whatever the answer may be, it is a self sustaining system in its very purest sense. It manages the individual and the community. There is hardly any external enforcement required. Dialogue and discussion are its means of self- repair and self-regulation. There will always be internal conflicts, but one must always remember that if the cells of a body start fighting with each other, the body will not exist, and hence, neither will they.

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CHAPTER THREE:

A Sucker for New Age ideas

I‟ve been working on my organic farm for a couple of years now. Don‟t know where it‟s headed, and frankly it‟s not what I pictured it to be. My one dream though, has always been to travel India. People talk about travelling the world, but my question to them always was, “Have you ever been to the far ends of your own country?” The views I have heard of India abroad have been, “wow it‟s a beautiful place” or “I am saving some money to make a trip to India” or “it‟s so colorful, radiant, and culturally diverse.” So this year, I told myself I am going to set a project for myself and named it DISCOVER INDIA! So here I am, leaving my little farm in the care of my sister. “I have a whole year”, I thought to myself. My first stop in this journey will be Auroville. What better place to start with - a supposedly completely self-sustained community, along with the spiritual driving force of the Mother, this really was a colorful, radiant and culturally diverse place! I was off, and after a long and tiresome, rickety bus ride, I reached my destination.

The cyclone was closing in on this small piece of land, the air sultry but still damp, moisture laden. The plush greenery and the smell of the neem and the gulmohar scented the fresh air. Aaaaahh! I could breathe. I hired a scooter and set off on the mud roads. It was a lonely, lost feeling at first. People were busy doing their own things around the place, people were very few too, and people were never seen to be out on the roads or near buildings talking in small gatherings. The loneliness sunk in me, and I began to feel comfort in just having myself with me.

Mother is this what ‘self-sustainability’ really means? I just have me, no one to tell me to go,

or show me around, no one to tell me where I can get some food or maybe tell me how to

get to the place I want to.

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After this I lost track of days, and just ended up with a big bag full of experiences.

I stayed at the college guesthouse. Pretty thatched roofs and bamboo stilts that floored and held my room up together, a little community kitchenette, where one could make their own food if they ran out of options, with the basic requirements like bread, jam, salt and sugar that the community could use for free.

I walked down to the solar kitchen another large scale community kitchen where Aurovillians

met for their meals, all cooked only with the help of the massive solar dish that about a 100 people could sleep in, which was placed on the roof. I learned that the mirror that was attached to

a rod in the center of this dish had heat sensors that would move with the movement of the sun to

reflect the direct sunrays on to the dish. I thought that was pretty cool. And even better, it was

designed and constructed by the residents itself.

How does a service like the solar kitchen run? How does the Auroville bakery or any of the other community services sustain themselves and the people they provide for? One elderly Aurovilian told me, it‟s a symbiotic relationship. The community and they work together. For better understanding, visit the visitor‟s center, she said.

So I set off. A store about Auroville and its history along with a small museum, and two beautiful boutiques, it was like I stepped into the streets of Bangalore all of a sudden. Shiny floors, sections for stationery, clothes, accessories, handmade paper, shoes, furniture, home

interiors all made in Auroville, all sold there for a quite an exorbitant price, all very unique.

I walked up to the store manager and asked her if I could maybe visit these places where they were made, and she gave me a bunch of names and numbers.

There I was next, in the middle of the Industrial Zone. What would you imagine that to be if

I told you it was actually called that? An area with clouds of smoke, a foul smell from the water

bodies, a whole lot of noise of clangs and bangs, vehicles, and people walking about looking tired and weary, and a smell of chemicals that would have chased away any other life form other

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than us wretched humans? Hey! But wait, where the „industries‟ here? Were I opened the map to locate myself, and my whereabouts, and there it was: the industrial zone was the smallest of the four zones of Auroville. It was there, in the north of Auroville on diverse topographical and fertile land. The industrial area is located in and around the following regions: Kottakarai (one out of the 13 villages in the green belt), Ganesh Bakery area (a famous spot for lunch for the visitors run by a local), the Pony farm and Auroshilpam (an area where some of the cottage industries have been set up). Can you imagine these small houses like structures in the midst of forests, gardens, shops, and farms? I couldn‟t even identify a manufacturing unit from the rest, a

true „cottage industryin the literal sense.

So, how exactly do people set up their industries, and what in the divine consciousness that fills the space, are the parameters that they need to keep in mind. Say if I were to start making earrings from unused malleable wire, a waste product of electrical wiring and carpentry, how would I go about it? Questions whizzed through my head

Where can business be located?would I go about it? Questions whizzed through my head – Is there any impact on

Is there any impact on the environment and what may it be?whizzed through my head – Where can business be located? Where is the source of water?

Is there any impact on the environment and what may it be? Where is the source

Where is the source of water?

Can the electricity demands be met?and what may it be? Where is the source of water? Is there any existing infrastructure

is the source of water? Can the electricity demands be met? Is there any existing infrastructure

Is there any existing infrastructure in the same area? And if there is any can access be provided? Are the finances enough for a new infrastructure?

provided? Are the finances enough for a new infrastructure? The same questions had to be answered

The same questions had to be answered to the town planning committee (LAvenir de

Auroville) before Upasana (textile manufacturers), Auroknit (makes bags and clothes by knitting), Bijou (makes accessories out of beads), or Svaram (musical instrument manufacturers) began. There were other factors that I observed that would have also been on my mind if I started my very own, more obvious ones:

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Land before one can set up an enterprise they must fill up a long form specifying the financial

interests, environmental characteristics and production process. After approval by LAvenir de

Auroville, the land is allocated in the plan of the industrial zone.

Labour As there were no traditional arts and crafts that were native to the land, they availability of skilled labour posed as a drawback, but on the other hand, labour was in abundance as there were not much economic opportunities to the people around Auroville.

Training of labour was important, as the emphasis of these enterprises was more on hands-on activities as compared to machinery.

Market as Auroville is a small community, there is not much scope for a market in and around Auroville, thus they venture out to market their products on a national and international level. On the other hand, jam and other food processing units as well as the bakery had a huge demand within the community and its visitors, thus increased production and supplies by supplying to Pour Tous (a community food distribution point.)

to Pour Tous (a community food distribution point.) So why were these industries set up? They

So why were these industries set up? They could not be just for economic purposes because otherwise the industrial sector would look very different. What else could it be? Some of the reasons I observed were:

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People (foreigners specifically) did not want to travel up and down from their hometowns back

People (foreigners specifically) did not want to travel up and down from their hometowns back to Auroville in order to make money to sustain them in Auroville. Thus they started their own small-scale outlets where they manufactured garments and other handicrafts. The foreigners who came to Auroville who had different lifestyles and standards of living, food-processing units were set up. For example the Auroville bakery that provided for the community‟s consumption. It is really interesting here to note that, this is sort of analogous to the colonial days of India, where we were invaded, conquered and captured, and the rules of the land were set by them and not us, and the system was changed around to suit their convenience and lifestyle. It was pretty much like that. Karthik a friend I made native to one of the villages eats bread, jam, and peanut butter for breakfast than what his staple or local meal would be. After the afforestation program had come to a considerable level, people started to indulge in setting up small enterprises that included pottery and paper making In the philosophy of Auroville, business is included as part of the Aurovilian experience, working hands on to produce things that the community could benefit from as well as the individual, thus developing simple techniques like flower pressing on greeting cards and other gift items. In some cases, people felt a strong need to make Auroville self sufficient that led to a groups of people trying out their hands at creating technology to utilize the different sources of energy, to provide electricity. Some business started with the whole aim of helping and improving the lives of those who lived in the small villages and settlements in and around Auroville. Some were even established that were solely dedicated to a cause, for example restoring the green belt or the education of the girl child, or female empowerment.

or the education of the girl child, or female empowerment. The personal interest of the entrepreneurs
or the education of the girl child, or female empowerment. The personal interest of the entrepreneurs
or the education of the girl child, or female empowerment. The personal interest of the entrepreneurs
or the education of the girl child, or female empowerment. The personal interest of the entrepreneurs
or the education of the girl child, or female empowerment. The personal interest of the entrepreneurs

The personal interest of the entrepreneurs in Auroville, quality control and design development lies within the philosophy of Auroville and is taken care of. But a major problem they faced was that it contributes to only about 35% of the requirements of Auroville, whereas Auroville aims to become completely self-sustaining. The deficit is made up through funds and donations. This posed as a problem for the industrial sector, as the vision to make Auroville completely self sustained still had some way to go to.

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A bright notice in the solar kitchen notice board caught my eye – “A trip to the Sadhana Forest self sustained and a vegan settlement, Bus leaves from the solar kitchen gates on Friday 5:00pm, the tour would be followed by an eco-movie come join us for a free vegan meal after.” Sounds interesting, doesn‟t it? Of course it did to me, a sucker for new age philosophies and ideas, as a friend‟s father had tagged me once.

Go Green!

as a friend ‟s father had tagged me once. Go Green! Cycle powered generator Reforestation project

Cycle powered generator

Reforestation project (Acacia)

Sadhana Forest located slightly outside of the master plan of Auroville, started its ecological revival and sustainable living work in December 2003. The aim and aspiration of this place is to ecologically transform 70 acres of severely eroded land in Auroville, into a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF). Yorit and Aviram who started this place had a vision to reforest the land in a spirit of human unity, constant learning, a place of renewal and innovation, adventure; they put their life's savings of $63000 (earned from their work as professionals in business and architecture) into the land and buildings (sustainable). Their aim is to introduce a growing number of people to sustainable living.

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A Friday in Sadhana forest gave us a glimpse into their livelihood. The tour around the forest,

conducted by one of the residents of Sadhana Forest, gave us an insight as to the activities they

practice and the lifestyle they have adopted. The tour began with a brief on the community common room, where there is a little section for charging ones laptops or phones for a short fixed period of time. Wi-Fi is also provided to those who wish to use it for a fixed period so as to save on the use of electricity. Then we were shown the compost toilets where it was explained to us as to how the feces is collected in trays and dumped in pits that is left to compost. The kitchen, completely experimented on and an open room full of innovations with an eco-friendly approach is used only to cook vegan food with the vegetables grown by the community as well, some of which are also procured from elsewhere. Water that they drink is purified through a process called dynamization, where a certain frequency of sound and a strong beam of light are passed through the water after a process of reverse osmosis that energizes the water crystals and thus enhances one‟s energy in turn when consumed. From there on, we went into the forest area,

to see huge expanses of land, covered with Acacia trees, being the plant that most easily grows in

that region. Around each plant and running as lines through the forest area were dug up trenches and bunds to retain water as rainwater harvesting measures and to recharge ground water. The

evening was spent watching an interesting movie on water and its characteristics, qualities and memories, followed by a vegan, simple dinner served to us by the volunteers and residents. It ended well and was a warm visit. The experience was reviving and intriguing, and I left with a feeling of wanting to go and experience life there for at least a couple of months if not more!

and I left with a feeling of wanting to go and experience life there for at

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The view that many Aurovillians have of Sadhana forest is a very positive one. They believe that Sadhana Forest is practicing and living the lifestyle with the principle that Auroville began with. They believe that Sadhana Forest is the way Auroville used to be, completely self-sustained and a simple way of living.

I finally had some hope for my farm now, and new ideas as to how to go about harvesting and recycling my way through my farming. It‟s easy to tag yourself as a self sustained person you know, it even seems to have a cool new age idea sound to it, but here in front of me was a live and working model, striving for the same and even reached stages where they could be proud of it. Maybe if we all decided to live like this, even a little, there wouldn‟t be a hole in the ozone layer, or the ice in the caps wouldn‟t be melting to submerge the islands in the Pacific.

Getting Started

Auroville was founded by an act of parliament in 1988. The entrepreneurs setting up enterprises would be appointed as the trustee and he or she could autonomously take the decisions required to run the unit within specified limits. Thus there does not exist in relationship or interference by the Government as the Auroville Foundation as a whole is the only legal entity deciding what can and cannot be done.`

To run an enterprise in Auroville, the unit is classified under a trust, and the individual starting the unit must hand it over to the trust. Thus it would belong to the Auroville Foundation and not the individual alone. Being a part of the Foundation, the unit can enjoy the same exemptions and benefits that the Foundation receives. The entrepreneurs behind them are automatically made into trustees, and some become the executive. There could be other executives as well, but a trustee can only be a senior member of Auroville who is responsible in safeguarding the vision of Auroville. The executive has the freedom to take decisions in terms of expansion and production

to a certain limit. Restrictions are regarding the unitsimmovability as the land to set it up is

fixed and given by the Auroville foundation. Also, even if the initial investment is put in by the

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executive the unit belongs to the Foundation and the enterprise cannot claim any of the assets of the unit.

Executives enjoy their freedom by making plans of expansion and productivity, however in case of expansion the enterprise must submit a detailed report to the ABC (Auroville Board of Commerce) and get it approved. The ABC does not help in funding the expansion in anyway; the costs must be entirely borne by the individual.

Though the values of Auroville are based on community ideals and cooperation, there does not exist a single cooperative in Auroville. Every enterprise is set up and run by an individual who can hold the vision that is in relation to the spiritual consciousness and not personal interest or personal consciousness.

Most executives express that freedom to make decisions by themselves is good for their working, But if the unit was to suffer a loss, then the individual would have to bear the burden alone, which was unfair, because if one made a profit, he or she has to share the profit with the community. This is where I see clashing of ideas, visions and principles in the entire philosophy behind Auroville. I feel that the people behind these enterprises, most of them, run it to make a profit in their own interest. The problem arises when the percentage of this has to be shared with the community. Of course there are the ideas of “Its going for the betterment of place where we live” and “the betterment of the infrastructure and amenities in Auroville”. But at the end of the day I strongly think that human tendency is to possess something that he or she creates, whether the idea and the principles are thought of and kept in mind or not.

What are the different products produced and where do they source their raw materials?

produced and where do they source their raw materials? Leather industry – they use soft leather

Leather industry they use soft leather (terra-cotta leather) from Chennai, which is a regional market for leather in the state. Other centers are Ambore and Vellore. Pigments and metal accessories are sourced from Chennai as well.

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Food processing industry- for fruit based products like jams and jelly the Auroville orchards is

Food processing industry- for fruit based products like jams and jelly the Auroville orchards is used. In times where the orchards do not meet the requirements they are sourced from Pondicherry along with wheat and maida for the bakery. Wood based industry they source their raw materials from Acacia and other local timber within Auroville. The planned afforestation programs help this industry in procuring raw materials. Garment industry some units procure fabric from all over the country states such as, Banaras, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu of course. Some garments that are solely for export and for the international market source silk from china and dyes from Switzerland e.g.: Auromode. Clay based industry this industry apart from sourcing clay locally from Auroville also procures it from Gujarat. Fuel required by this industry is from wood that is used within Auroville itself.

also procures it from Gujarat. Fuel required by this industry is from wood that is used
also procures it from Gujarat. Fuel required by this industry is from wood that is used
also procures it from Gujarat. Fuel required by this industry is from wood that is used
also procures it from Gujarat. Fuel required by this industry is from wood that is used

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Auroville has improved in over their years in their strive to achieve self sustainability. The

Auroville has improved in over their years in their strive to achieve self sustainability. The numbers of units have increased from 25 units to about 80 units in 30 years. One of the most significant achievements is that an individual is able to support himself and in turn has helped Auroville as a community one step closer towards self-sustenance of the economy. One evidence is that just with export goods the units have been able to gain a foreign exchange of about Rs. 6.5 crores of which of a large portion is given back to the Auroville Foundation.

As one of the underlying principles of Auroville is to strive towards self-sustenance, the manufacturing units have put this into effect in a major way. The focus of the units is to maximize the usage of raw materials and minimize on waste. Waste is also reused as raw material or recycled in almost all cases. Even small changes have been made in the pottery industry where they fire the furnace at a lower temperature than required to reduce the amount of toxic carbon released from the kilns. The Eco-service unit in Auroville also takes care of all the non-recyclable wastes that the units produce such as glass and plastic.

Auroville has still not been able to achieve self-sufficiency completely in spite of all the precautions and ideas used and practiced by the units. One of the major reasons is that the

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population of Auroville is too small to achieve self-sufficiency completely, thus a major part of goods and raw materials are sourced from Pondicherry and elsewhere.

The basic philosophies that are included and practiced in the units are of human spirit, creativity and innovation, and quality control and maintenance, good will and support from the villages, and employees, regional linkages, need to be self sustained, production of goods primarily what the community needs and from what is directly available from the region and the idea of working for the community and not solely for the individual. These have been the primary reasons for the success and development of the Industrial sector over the years. All of these philosophies root from the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the idea of Auroville that the Mother had.

Differences between businesses in Auroville and elsewhere:

Business does not belong to the peopleDifferences between businesses in Auroville and elsewhere: 33-35% of profits flow back into Auroville Development of

33-35% of profits flow back into Aurovilleand elsewhere: Business does not belong to the people Development of villages in and around Auroville

Development of villages in and around Auroville being one of the points of focusto the people 33-35% of profits flow back into Auroville Aspiration for quality and high standards

Aspiration for quality and high standards of perfection of product is an underlying strong drive.in and around Auroville being one of the points of focus Attitude of the community focuses

of perfection of product is an underlying strong drive. Attitude of the community focuses on Karma

Attitude of the community focuses on Karma Yoga intertwined with aspirations and dedications Not for profit

intertwined with aspirations and dedications Not for profit Money is considered to be consequence of work

Money is considered to be consequence of workintertwined with aspirations and dedications Not for profit Double Dilemma The expansion of the industrial sector

Double Dilemma

The expansion of the industrial sector has been a continuous process over the years. The greater the number of units set up the greater the inflow of money. But by principle the units are forced not look for ways to make it money making for profit. The general views of the enterprise heads were that the community should be more open towards the concept of making money. “The community is too rigid and they have a hazy attitude towards money, almost like it was

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something unclean” said one. Another, the CEO of Maroma (a company that manufactures incense sticks) - Paul aptly quoted that ―The attitude of dedication and hard work of dedication and hard work and surrender to the unknown allows the sense of possession of money to disappear while retaining the sense of responsibility towards money”. This was quite apt as in Auroville the majority of the inflow of money and funds are from the industrial sector apart from the grants and donations that provide for the running of the services sectors and fund the planning committees, in turn it also the empowerment of the locals and improves their standard of living by giving them job opportunities, thus the attitude towards money by the community at large towards money is quite contradictory to the aim and use of it in Auroville. Another view of the community is that working for commercial units is not laudable but working for the service sector is more worthy. The view of the entrepreneurs is that they strongly would like to change the negative attitude towards business and money making must change, as the service sector runs largely on the 31 commercial units that put in money towards it.

So mother, my week is over, I hope my plants and dogs are doing just fine, but I am here in

this white walled, white carpeted, white lit room, in front of you, left with just more

questions.

Do you even like the word utopian? Is that your plan? Was Auroville a plan to be Utopian? Or

is it debated and scrutinized and questioned because it’s just different, it’s just a new way, a

new idea, a new consciousness in your words? It’s funny, it’s like that with people as well,

someone is slightly different from the rest, do things differently, and they suddenly become

interesting or scrutinized

My view is that, yes it does seem like an experiment, a pretty successful one so far. One week, can just introduce me to a new consciousness, but it would take time for it to sink in me, just like it would take Auroville too.

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I walk around sometimes in the malls, trying to look for things to do up the house and to buy someone, and the Auroville products do catch my eyes. And now I actually went to see how and where they are made, it‟s unbelievable with what simplicity all this is carried out in.

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CHAPTER FOUR

Love thy Neighbors

The three buzzwords that instantly come to mind when a layman hears of Auroville are spiritual, foreigners and Pondicherry. While I was captivated by the entire idea of Auroville, I was always a little skeptical about the notion that it was simply a nice place for foreigners to retire. For better or worse, whenever Auroville was talked about in mass media, it would be followed with pictures of foreigners in loose fitting floral print clothes. A hippie culture! I knew from my own little reading that this was not true, but contesting this misconception, albeit for the reason of self-pacification, provided enough drive for me to explore this space further.

Secondly, during my pre-research, I came across the following statement-“Auroville, and its immediate vicinity house close to 40 small to mid size villages.” And I thought to myself, how do a bunch of villages in Tamil Nadu, considered to be a conservative state by many, adopt and integrate, if at all, with such a radical, and progressive way of life. Consider this- urban India and rural India have such a large divide and that is despite of urban India still consisting Indians. Here in Auroville, you have a majority of foreigners, from different parts of the world, and they are to be integrated into this system. How?

It was clear from the very outset that the Mothers guiding philosophy would have an overbearing presence on all the activities of Auroville. As is clear from earlier reports, the architecture of the town and the design of the Matramandir were products more of Mothers inspiration than conventional decision-making. It was no different when it came to the notions of human unity, economic integration and higher collective consciousness. However, the question that arises is what does the philosophy translate to in reality? How is it communicated, or is it possible, that in true spiritual fashion, it is better understood than explicitly said?

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This is the core of my research into the relation of Auroville and her neighbors. In the course of finding reasonable arguments for the same, I will touch upon personal accounts of relations between villagers and Auroville. I will also present some historical context of the nature of relations between the two entities (the villages and Auroville) and how it has evolved to the present day.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

to the present day. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Economic integration was bound to

Economic integration was bound to happen at some point given the proximity of the villages to Auroville. For the long-term peace and sustainability of the region, it was essential that their economic livelihoods co exist.

According to Meenakshi, poet and noted educationist in Auroville, the region where Auroville now resides was a barren, dry, parched piece of land where nothing grew and the people suffered from widespread leprosy. Post-independence, it was an ignored piece of land- no one seemed to care about it and it merely existed- lifeless and sick. They were in need for work, but more importantly they were in need of economic guidance. They had fallen into such a death trap of

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poverty and famine that even the most ambitious person in the village would simply be looking to get some food on the plate.

Auroville, and the people from the around the world coming here, were able to provide that extra guidance that the region needed so badly. It took a foreign outlook, at the time, to identify what was rich about the region, in terms of labour, culture, customs and so on. From an ignored piece of topography, the region suddenly saw hoards of volunteer workers growing trees, running medical camps and working towards rehabilitation of the land. All this with no apparent interest or motive; just on the words of a spiritual force? Thus, right from the beginning of the interaction between Auroville and her neighbors, in the early 1970‟s, there was a sense of gratitude that the villagers had for Auroville.

However, there were distinct differences in cultural upbringing, and there was no denying the need to address these. The Mother saw integration at a spiritual level, but the path to that objective necessitated that the preliminary barriers be broken down.

In the initial years, the interactions between villages and Auroville were more exploratory. The people from Auroville were intrigued by the lifestyles of the villagers and vice versa. Slowly, people started seeing the potential of helping each other. The idea of a commercial unit emerged, which could only achieve the required manpower if the people from the villages could be taken in. It was not necessary for all the villagers to become a part of Auroville itself to have a productive and healthy relationship with Auroville. Such economic activity was meant to benefit both Auroville and the villagers in equal measure.

O Mother, talk to us

Conflicted follower: O Mother, I feel that Auroville, in embracing a world philosophy, a

worldview, is losing out on the very context it is situated in rural Tamil Nadu. There is no

doubt Auroville is doing things to integrate people around them with their idea and

philosophy. But I feel not enough is done inside Auroville for the global citizens to embrace

the local culture fully. What do you think about that?

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Mother: The advent of Auroville in Tamil Nadu has given a new hope and cheer to the

people. The first citizens of Auroville are those Tamil people who live on the soil of Auroville.

The Tamil culture, which is one of the oldest in the world, has a unique role to play in the city

of Auroville, which is coming up with cooperation of various nations of the world and

various states of India.

Through the initial years, commercial units began to work with the villagers through a lot of their own initiative. There was no real structure to training the villagers or bridging the cultural divide between the two sides. It was taken up at a very person-to-person level, and the few enterprising and eager ones from the village were able to benefit from these activities.

As a result it was seen that some people from the village were getting more involved with Auroville than others. These individuals were seen to be getting respect from others in Auroville, and they started earning more than others in the village. One of the positives of working in Auroville is that it also gave rise to an upward social mobility- something that the village-folk were not very used to. This often led to conflict within villages. People were less accepting of the prosperity of these people. It led to negative vibes in the city not only towards these individuals, but also towards Auroville for they felt Auroville was being favorable to some, and not to others.

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9
9

Exhibit 1 10 is but one example of an agitation that took place in Kullapalayam. It is a complaint case of a few Tamil Aurovillians not being able to maintain peaceful sentiments within the village. There were many such cases of individual unrest among villages littered across the villages situated in the green belt. There was a need to have a more structured effort to bring the villages closer to Auroville; a move that would bring community wide integration with the surrounding villages, not just individual stray cases.

For this purpose, in the year 1983, the Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) was founded. Auroville Village Action Group has been working over the last few decades to bridge this gap. Mr. Morris, one of the founding members of the organization, explains that that does not necessarily mean that they work only with villagers and make them aware of European and/or foreign customs. The idea is to find a middle ground, and therefore includes engaging Aurovillians about the traditional customs of the villages as well. They also help the Europeans understand the cultural and socio-political structure that the villagers come from.

True to the Aurovilian way of doing things, this middle ground is found by conducting interesting and interactive activities. The AVAG facilitates activities that would foster group and team building spirit, punctuality, fostering gender equality- activities that promote well being as well as improve the general level of employability of the villagers in commercial units. The

9 Dream Catcher’s Presentation; Dr. Mona Pingel 10 Refer to Primary Data CD1

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AVAG has conducted sports day, provide weaving centers for the women of the villages, education (reading and writing camps) and other family oriented activations.

There is no denying that the AVAG has brought the villages and Auroville closer. The conflicts have reduced in number ever since its inception and the villagers have a strong medium to communicate with Auroville. There is still the question of social change yet. Social life is made up of the interaction of individual social units, and social change is incumbent when a certain generation is tuned to a different way of being from their immediate forefathers. With the activities of AVAG, there seems to be a shift of the village aspirations to be more attuned to the Auroville way of life. Sure this may be a more productive way of going about it instead of the consumerist version that would come with proximity to a large metropolis, but it is still a cultural imposition nonetheless.

Feel Auroville for the spirituality. Live in a nearby village for the freedom.

Another very interesting part of my research was when we persuaded the caretaker at our guesthouse, Karthik, to take us to a nearby village so that we get a taste of life there. He recommended that we go to this quaint fisherman village close by called Kottakuppam.

So the next morning, we set off to this village in order to gain some firsthand perspective about villages and their interaction with Auroville. As soon as we enter Kottakuppam, we see this distinct change in the setting. Although it is as quiet, and non-commercial as Auroville itself, there is a sense of poverty around - kids playing barefoot on tar roads, and the odd hawker on the roadside who looked neither happy nor too healthy. But we resisted to make conclusions right away, and headed to meet with one of Karthiks friends.

We were surprised to find that Kathiks friend was an old British retired banker! Here was a local Tamil boy, albeit a well educated one, going over to the house of an old British person for a cup of chai with his guests. For me, this in itself seemed like something that would rarely happen anywhere other than Auroville- it possessed this undeniable sense of equality and brotherhood, and it spread over to neighboring villages.

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As we sat with John, the Englishman, we discussed life in Kottakuppam and what brought him here. It isnt usual to find a foreigner living in a rented little apartment in a village in rural India. The obvious first question was, why here when Auroville was so close. It did seem more inviting to foreign nationals and provide an environment that they are more used to. The answer that we got was something that we had not heard from anyone yet. He told us that he had no intention of becoming an Aurovillian. That is not the intention with which he had come to India in any case.

The reason he was living in Kottakuppam was because it was convenient; he had friends living close in the village and he had made some friends in Auroville. After he retired, he was looking for a calm place by the beach to settle down and lead a comfortable life. He felt that Auroville placed way too many restrictions for his liking. He explained that while he thought the idea and philosophy behind Auroville was absolutely admirable, he was more comfortable appreciating it from a distance than being a part of it.

During the course of our conversation, one of his friends, Mark, returned from the beach. He was even more stoic in his opinion that Auroville asked for too much of individuals. While he was a little apprehensive of being quoted, he qualified that he held this entirely as a personal opinion as businessman. For a businessman who has financial assets/obligations outside, it seemed to him that it was unreasonable for Auroville to ask for all of it. Thus, he enjoys the feel of Auroville, and revels in its extraordinary philosophy by living on the outskirts of Auroville in this fisherman village of Kottakoppam. He truly believed that there was a special energy to Auroville and it could be felt in villages just outside of it and thus he gets the best of both worlds. One could argue that this was the thinking of a true businessman, in terms of a transaction, and that in itself would be against the thinking behind Auroville. We thanked the two of them for sparing their time and moved outside to find some local Tamilian villagers.

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Fishy Village

We made our way down to the beach with Karthik in search for some local villagers. We saw the hoards of fish neatly laid out, and Karthik spent a couple of minutes to explain to me how the fish are caught and sorted. In the meanwhile, a villager came up and started a conversation with Karthik in Tamil. I could not understand what they were saying, but there were no signs of animosity.

what they were saying, but there were no signs of animosity. I mention that because I

I mention that because I had gathered a sense, from stories that Karthik had relayed to me in our numerous informal talks that sometimes villagers become cold to the villagers who go and become a part of Auroville completely. They feel cheated, and are often not well received by their former friends. But this was not on display here, so I ask Karthik if we could ask him a few questions. He agrees, and Karthik was going to be the translator.

As was expected from his warm reception of us to begin with, the fisherman had good things to say about Auroville. I gathered that at some level Auroville simply provides a market. Sure there is a great philosophy behind the place that drives the very energy of the place itself, but what is that to the fisherman who is trying to make two square meals a day. Close to nothing.

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Auroville may project an outwardly approach to the villages around it. And undoubtedly, this is true for the majority of their approach. But at some level it is just an economic market independent of the spiritual angle. If viewed from a purely economic, opportunity cost point of view- wouldnt the fisherman get a larger faster growing market if there was an economic SEZ instead of the Auroville. Sentimentally, I feel disgust towards myself for suggesting it for I would much rather have an Auroville that grows greenery and positive energy instead of smoke and pollution. But the point of relevancy is for the former. Whats the best for him? You take out the spiritual understanding out of Auroville, and her case for the villagers around Auroville becomes surprisingly weak.

Through the eyes of Ramesh Macha

Auroville is a fantastic place. Where else would you find so many foreigners being so kind and gentle towards the local people? Whenever I have interacted with anyone from Auroville, or gone to Auroville for business, I have been treated with respect. More respect than what other wealthy Indians show to me. I live in the nearby village of Irumbai, and come to Auroville for work every day. I work in the commercial unit called Wellpapers. The work is good. We make products out of recycled

newspaper. I learnt early as a youth from one of my friends at Auroville, that lifes greatest

meditation is done through work. I treat my work just like that. I treat my work as spiritual. Most of my village friends do not understand this part of me, but some do. They relate it with their work in the field. Strenuous as it may be, it gives them peace of mind. I guess, at some level that is what is so attractive about Auroville. Its gestures, policies are intuitive to the human body and spirit. I get paid a fine salary of Rs 5000 every month, but how do I explain to you that the value of my relation with Auroville is much more.

Now and then, I hear these politicians shouting slogans and screaming about how Auroville is a foreigners retirement abode. How they must be evicted from this spot. I feel very conflicted to be honest. I think to myself- sure this man screaming on the microphone looks every bit like me, and speaks the same vernacular- but I feel far more alienated from him than I do from the foreigners at Auroville. These people adorn themselves in gold, drive in fancy cars and have hordes of people in sunglasses protecting them. They share my skin color, but there is nothing

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else about them that I relate to. But an Aurovilian on the other hand, I find myself closer to. He may be white in skin, or with high-cheeked bones, but I will find him repairing a punctured cycle tire in the middle of the road, a situation I would often find myself in as well. A lot of my friends complain about how I betray them by respecting the white in Auroville; to the extent that I question myself sometimes as well. It was the white people who ravaged our countries for their personal agendas not more than half a century ago- why trust them now? I do not how to answer them. My response is more of an intuition, but how do I express it?

I understand that there is something spiritual about the place. I do not know or understand what it is though. I could only assume it has something to do with God. What else would get people to such a high level of humility? I have seen their temple- the Matramandir and I must admit I find it very odd. There is no depiction of any God on the outside. I hear that there is nothing but a concentration room on the inside. This I do not understand. My parents and grandparents have taught me about idols from the very beginning, and I believe it is very important. The people at Auroville seem to have thought through everything, and I am sure they have an explanation for this, but I just do not see it.

I must admit however, that there are times that I ponder over those screaming politicians words. Not out of any loyalty or admiration for him, but for the times I meet some of my friends who

live in villages near cities like Chennai or these newly formed SEZs. These are friends of mine

who left our village in search of work 5-6 years back. You look at them now, and they are completely different. They dress western; not that it looks smart because you can tell the clothes are an imitation of the real western clothes I see the foreigners wearing at Auroville. Their families are torn apart, and they find it hard to trace their roots in the village. Their culture seems to be driven simply by the factory that they work in, or the industry that they are promoting. But if these are the prices that they paid from their cultural and historical identity, the returns they received were monetary. Today, these friends of mine have no self-respect in the city where they work, but they have more money than me. They can afford better education for their children. They have better health care facilities in the time of emergency. All this while I lead a life that is respectful and spiritually fulfilling! But I wonder, am I doing what is best for my children? They

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might not have chosen this life; in which case am I providing them with as many opportunities the bustling India is offering outside?

Auroville is growing. I find it in a constant state of flux. It is churning and turning from within. But the values that drive this engine are different. I am fully aware of the price I pay in terms of monetary wealth given up by not going to the closest city, but if only I could explain to you how my relation and my life with Auroville is worth so much more, you would understand my choice.

According to the Mother, there is a need to internalize the villages around Auroville with the idea of Auroville. As she says,―the best way to achieve this is to educate them. Not by words, or through speeches, but by example. If you can make them mix with your life and your work, and they get the influence your way of understanding, then, little by little, they will change. And when they become curious and ask questions, then it will be time to answer and tell them what you know.11 1

- The Mother

There are almost 20,000 people living in the villages around Auroville. This is 10 times the current population of Auroville itself. Being enveloped by these villagers is a reality that they cannot ignore. To make things slightly easier, they adopt a charter, and a spiritual doctrine that believes in breaking down barriers and community integration. One must mention that there are certain barriers put up. Not obvious ones, but ones that villagers have to overcome. Sure villagers can come and work in the commercial units, but it is still very tough for them to become Aurovillians. One would argue that for true integration- why not just let them in and become Aurovillians. The counter arguments are many. They do not fully understand the teachings of the Mother. It would undermine the entire selection process altogether and so on. But the point is that, Auroville does not mind if the villagers come and work as labour, as long as they are still not part of the community. Sure some odd villagers get through, and they integrate fine, but the selection process, and the living expenses-maintenance equation is simply not in favour of the villagers. It is useful to compare the relationship between traditional cities and the villages (urban/rural relationship). Not only is there a rampant exploitation of their position and wages,

11 Auroville’s Attitude towards local villagers (Gilles, 1999)

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there tends to be no trickledown effect at. Forget community integration, there is not even a semblance of any effort in that direction.

Auroville has the convenience of numbers of their side. As it looks to the future of their project, the villages, as a whole, need to be given represented adequately. The villages protect the sanctity of this land from the outside- for Auroville to realize its potential; it must bring them closer inside. It is already a stellar attempt at community integration; it just needs to go that extra mile now.

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CHAPTER FIVE

Mad Angles

“You‟re not helping. Bye!” I hung up the phone angrily without waiting for a reply. I looked around me. I looked down at my map. I looked around me again. I searched for any signs of movement but the only life forms that were around were up in trees or busy humming around, oblivious to the confused stranger stranded in Auroville.

I thought about my conversation with Kahira who was walking around the busy streets of Chandigarh, laughing at the thought of me stranded on lonely dark dirt roads in a tiny place like

Auroville. Could she be right? Had Auroville really not developed since the 60s? Was it still

struggling with problems of water and electricity? In an attempt to do something different, had I brought myself a step closer to the experience of rural India?

With these varied thoughts gushing through my head, I now began to walk along the lonely road. I was not sure if it was the right one. As I looked at all the empty spaces around me, I started to notice that the city had no streetlights, no signposts at accessible points and absolutely no watchmen. It was then that it struck me how alone I was. I was petrified. While half of me was making an attempt to dial the Auroville transport number, the other was trying to recollect the road that I had taken earlier in the day so that I could find my way back.

Town Planning and Urban Design

Most cities find their basis in the „Concentric Zone‟ model by sociologist E.W.Burgess, 1923, Sector model by economist Homer Hoyt, 1939 or the Multiple Nuclei Model as developed by geographers C.D Harris and E.L. Ullman in 1945. The „Galaxy model‟ as presented by the French Architect Roger Anger and adopted by Mother for Auroville is, unprecedented in the

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history of town planning. With Matrimandir at its center, the galaxy model essentially segregates the township of Auroville into four distinct zones namely the Industrial Zone, the International Zone, the Cultural Zone and the residential zone. The clear distinctions between zones seem to exist solely on paper for when one travels through the city it becomes extremely difficult to differentiate one zone from another.

In terms of town planning, Auroville with its small size and limited population has the potential to become a walkable community. It does not have heavy vehicular traffic flow as seen in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Also, while most cities in India do not have parks, gardens and other community spaces engrained within their town-planning modules, this is not the case with Auroville. Auroville with its four parks located within the green belt, along with it rustic scenic beauty provides its residents for lovely views to walk through and engaging spaces to walk to.

Walkablity is often closely connected to the connectivity of the space. The „crown roadaround

the Matrimandir and the outer ring road provides excellent connectivity to the city on account of its several inter-linkages. Yet, with all its many benefits Auroville is not a walkable community for various reasons. Firstly, there are no signage boards that provide direction. While in most cities, there is a possibility to ask for directions from a passerby, this is not the case in Auroville since there are only a handful of people visible on the streets at any given time. Along with some movement on the streets, Auroville would also require streetlights so that people can move about freely even after sunset. The current roads of Auroville are mainly made up of the red soil. In the months of monsoon, it would become almost impossible to walk through the slush and muck pools on these roads.

Auroville, a township for 50,000 people is a home to only 2100 people today, which indicates the sparse population of the land. This small number has also branched out into several smaller pockets in the form of communities and settlements within Auroville. This not only decreases per hectare density of the land, but it also increases distances between any two given spaces, thus opposing the possibility of Auroville becoming a walkable community.

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The lack of a walkable community has encouraged the used of motorized vehicles within Auroville. The poor road quality and the spatially fragmented community of Auroville do not support the otherwise viable option of public transportation either. So while there is an Auroville transport system that exists for the residents of Auroville, it assumes the role of an efficient taxi service and not that of a mass transit system for the residents.

It was eleven in the night. The kind gentleman from the Auroville transport has just dropped me to the College Guest House. I thanked him for his generosity and began to drag my feet in the general direction of my room. I sluggishly made my way through the pebbled path and finally slid open the door. One glance at my room and I couldnt help but smile. It was like the ladys prophecy had come true. She‟d said to me, earlier this morning “But what you have at the College guest House is coconut palm, which is just 4 layers like that and that lasts only 3 - 4 years and everybody starts living with you, its a whole eco-system between the squirrels, cockroaches and all kinds of creatures and if you leave anything out its a nightmare.” A nightmare it was!

There were bugs on my bed and a cat at my window. The ants that were initially scattered across the floor, had now found their way into my bags. Every once in a while, some mud that fell from the gaps of the bamboo ceiling, made itself comfortable on my bed. No fans. No ventilation. No plug points. The sultry weather made things worse. Id studied that the thatch absorbs the humidity during the monsoon and lets out the humidity during the summer, in order to keep the space quite cool. With the sultry weather making it almost impossible to breathe, I was convinced that my textbooks had it all wrong. As I lay in bed that night, waiting to fall asleep, I cursed my friend Kahira for it seemed that she had been right all along. I had perhaps sacrificed a great deal of comfort and luxury to become a spectator to this architectural experiment of sustainable living. I wasnt sure if it was worth it. I fell asleep.

―Auroville wants to be a field of constant research for architectural expressions, manifesting a new spirit through new forms.The Mother 12

12 Auroville Architecture: Towards new forms for a new consciousness (Alan, 2004)

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Auroville, within its architecture, incorporates community living as well as individual housing. Community living as understood through settlements like Aspiration, Creativity or Courage put forth the idea of land optimization. For instance, the Creativity settlement located in the residential zone houses 50 individuals in five three-tier apartments with a common community kitchen and recreational spaces for individuals, couples as well as families. This community model of living is far more sustainable when compared with the individual houses that are built in Auroville. Yet, the community living requires an individual to re-define or re-examine their idea of comfort for notions of privacy, luxury, responsibility and adjustment take a whole new meaning, which is not the case in individual homes. Individual homes still hold the privilege to adopt the unsustainable suburban model of large gardens and thirsty lawns. Open courtyards and spacious interiors that are in fact meant to contain a community of ten, only cater to the personalized needs of a three-member family. The desire for personalization and addition of aesthetic beauty in these homes often leads to a waste of materials and resources. In some way, the individual homes seem to go against the sustainable way of life that Auroville aspires for. Not only is it a violation of space, but it also brings about an obstruction in community interaction and community building which is the crux of the participative and interactive method of town-planning in Auroville.

Through its architecture in terms of materials, Auroville also seems to make an attempt to provide an alternative lens to understand sustainable architecture. Most of the materials used in construction at Auroville are procured locally. These materials include sand, cement, casurina and mud amongst others. Since the Auroville red soil has high quantities of iron oxides, they also make for incredible building materials. The roofs are often constructed from keet, palm leaf, bamboo or thatch. The local availability of these material curbs any transportation cost, thus making the buildings economically more viable. Moreover, keet and casurina are the simplest materials to build with and require very little skill, which reduces the labour cost. The architecture thus though extremely experimental in its form, it is very cost-effective and eco- friendly. One must remember however, that cost efficiency depends on a lot of factors such as the type of soil and the availability of labor amongst others.

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You would see in Sadhana Forest some of the structures that are left over from the old times because they lasted only 10-12 years- bridges in the sky, and huts in the sky, niches- it was amazing. It was like a mobile in which one could live.

Suhasini Iyer; Architect

A great deal of experimentation and exploration has been done with these materials to create all sorts of shapes and forms in the name of innovative architecture in Auroville. Roger Anger, the French chief Architect of Auroville has contributed immensely to this process of experimentation through his creation of rounded structures as seen in Auromodele community or the Language Laboratory. While some structures lay stacked up one on top of another, there are others that mould themselves into pyramids. Auroville showcases buildings that are circular as well as rectilinear. While individually, these buildings have an identity of their own, there is no definite „language‟ spoken by Auroville architecture as a whole for the architecture shuns the concept of replication as well as uniformity. The whimsical forms and temporary structures perhaps interesting to a few seem a mismatch if placed outside of Auroville.

whimsical forms and temporary structures perhaps interesting to a few seem a mismatch if placed outside

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13 Talking about unusual structures, there I was standing at the edge of one. As

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Talking about unusual structures, there I was standing at the edge of one. As I walked the cobbled path with a pair of fresh clothes and my toiletries, I reached the bathroom. The shower was in a small space with a tiny colorful door. Inside although was a completely different space:

there was no ceiling. One directly had to bathe under the open blue sky, or as was to my disadvantage the rains. I pondered as to how I would manage to take a shower in this circumstance, but soon found it to be extremely enjoyable. This relationship with nature was the first that I had shared and truly cherished. As I walked out of the tiny cubicle, I felt liberated. I now began to see the existing interweave between the architecture and nature in Auroville in the form of tall trees, open spaces, large windows that over look gardens and small water bodies. On seeing the beautiful indoor-outdoor relationship that existed in Auroville I realized the absence of it in most other cities and towns across India. Auroville was one of those few places where a house would be build around a tree, rather than the tree being put later into the house. I thought to myself that this was an idea that needed to adopted and replicated in perhaps all the cities and towns of the country.

Also, all libraries, cafes, schools and offices alike seem to follow a no door policy. Most of these spaces are open for public access, thus promoting Mothers idea that Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. In several houses curtains are used instead of doors to create division. Gated communities are also rare within the context of Auroville since there is a sense of trust and safety that exists. This again plays with the relationship of the internal and external. Spaces are

13 Travel Blog Anglais

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more amorphous and fluid as compared to compartmentalized spaces we often see in traditional schools and offices. An interesting point here is that the architecture encourages diffusion and osmosis. It allows the internal and the external to merge. As mentioned before, this says a lot about the community. It shows that the community in general is very welcoming and accepting. However, this is not reflected in their admission process to become an Aurovillian. I wonder why this is so.

My trip finally came to an end. I was happy to go back, back to my predictable concrete jungle. I pitied myself. I was leaving one of the most organic (in all ways) and natural places I had ever been too and yet, I was mildly excited by the thought of electricity consuming air conditioners and tar roads with cars on them. It was true that Auroville is an experiment, but it is an experiment, only for the brave.

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CHAPTER SIX

Brewing for the perfect coffee

CHAPTER SIX Brewing for the perfect coffee I sat on the bike nervously, not knowing where
CHAPTER SIX Brewing for the perfect coffee I sat on the bike nervously, not knowing where

I sat on the bike nervously, not knowing where the end of this ride would take me and who I would be meeting. I just knew one thing for sure: she was one of the more well known and respected artists in Auroville. I let my thoughts take over and was almost surprised when the bike stopped in a small lane with trees on either side. I couldnt see where we were headed, but I just followed the footsteps and soon I was guided onto a small cobbled pathway.

A friendly face dressed in loose pants and a comfortable t-shirt was waiting by the door with a cup of a steaming drink in her hands. She gave me an enormous smile when she saw me and put her mug down to give me a long, warm hug,

“Welcome to Auroville little artist.” She greeted me. I was too shocked to say anything. I was finally here. After a nightmare of a journey, I was finally standing in front of Jill Navarre, acclaimed director, playwright and screenwriter in Auroville. We followed her inside, and I froze. Every inch of the walls in her house were covered in posters of plays and performances

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that she had directed. There were shelves around groaning under the pressure of a variety of books, loose pages with dialogues from various plays lying around on the table, sofa and even on the kitchen counter. I looked around in awe as I found a comfortable chair to sit on while Jill made Hibiscus tea for us. While she was making the tea for us, I suddenly became conscious of the aura that I found myself sitting in. There were other people in the room, all here to teach me something. I thought about all those hours I had spent learning theatre in a classroom and not being satisfied, and here, suddenly I was satisfied with the aura alone. I immediately felt my passion of theatre take over me.

After several glasses of the soothing drink I was ready for the four artists from around the World who were bursting with discussions and ideas for their next performance for the community in Auroville. I looked at each of the people sitting in front of me; there was Jesse an Aurovillian by birth, Migelo was from Italy and was a fairly new member of Auroville, Sware was from New York and was the eldest member of the lot and finally Jill, born and brought up in New Orleans and was living here since 1991.

I waited for the various ideas to burst out and for creativity to flow in this room that was already high on energy. Several ideas relating to the book written by Sri Aurobindo, Savitri were put across but almost immediately taken off too. I looked at them, puzzled and suddenly I realized what was happening. All the suggestions that were being put across and written were being analyzed on the basis of content with respect to the audience. I excused myself and went to get a glass of water. Had I suddenly returned into a space where content had to be scrutinized before delivery? Was I back to the usual censoring of art? So where was this free space of beauty and art that I was so sure that I would find here? I closed my eyes and took a sip of the cool water

and felt my mind calming down slightly. The Mothers words rang in my ears,

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―I am not satisfied. My conception of genius is quite different. One must create new forms, with new means and processes to express a higher and purer, truer and nobler beauty of a new type. So long as I feel myself tied to humanity I cannot be freed completely from the forces of material Nature.‖

- The Mother 14

from the forces of material Nature.‖ - The Mother 1 4 Auroville was built to be

Auroville was built to be a city within human proportions. Auroville began as a dream and is lived in with the same dream running deep through the thin dirt tracks that link this dream together to one center. This is a city where education begins in self-discovery and ends only when ones soul has reached a level of self-realization and satisfaction. This integral education begins around the soul and consists of a holistic upbringing of the mental, vital and physical potential. Riding through the hidden and almost secret roads of Auroville, it is only evident that this city has been built on the principal of beauty and will continue to live on the thought of beauty. Thus, as I stood there, drinking water while hearing the ongoing discussion of censoring and the importance of „clean‟ art, I wondered what the Mother had had planned for Auroville with respect to the culture and creating an environment. This environment was supposed to be

14 The Mother- The divine artist- Sri Aurovbindo Institute of Culture (SAIoC)

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upholstered only by freedom and free flow of thought to encompass a rich and distinct influence of culture.

I go back to the discussion and Jesse can sense some tension on my face. He slows the pace of the conversation and brings it to a slow halt. There is an understood silence in the room as all eyes are fixed upon me. I take a deep breath and begin explaining my side of the story; the outsiders side.

When I looked at Auroville from the outside, with only the information that I had heard about, and a few websites that I had read, I believed instantly that Auroville was the perfect place for me, a perfect setting for art to be expressed freely with no barriers, no censor departments, no angry mobs. It was a space I believed that was designated only for the pure creation and flow of expression. The strongest point that I thought the Mother believed in and wished all her followers and those who come to stay on this soil would follow too was the importance of Beauty in life. One aspect of the teachings of Auroville that is integral to the entire community is

the thought and belief in „Beauty. Beauty is believed to be the essential part of one-self and this

is visible through the teachings, behavior, activities and the mere lifestyle of the Aurovillians. I remember the light headed feeling when I had read the words of Sri Aurobindo questioning the relationship between the nation and Beauty,

―… The first question is whether the sense of the beautiful has any effect on the life of the nation.-Sri Aurobindo 15

Art is given the utmost importance in Auroville from the lessons in schools to methods of relaxation for retired lifestyles, art has managed to weave a strong bond around the residents of Auroville allowing them to live a compassionate and healthy lifestyle.

15 Sri Aurobindo on art- Sri Aurovbindo Institute of Culture (SAIoC)

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There are several types of art that is set deep within the community of Auroville: art and design, performing arts, music, literature, fine arts and many more. Performing arts is a field where life and art come together and beauty is brought to life through various performances and dances. Theatre is one such field that incorporates beauty and creativity together and brings out the historical and cultural aspects of a city. One of the easiest ways to trace the traditions of any city would be through following the performances and scripts that have been performed.

Theatre in Auroville had begun long before the city had started. Artists incorporated stories in their works that were passed down by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. These artists travelled from around the World to hear the teachings of the two greatest philosophers. One of the A unique aspect to the culture of arts in Auroville is the diversity that is brought into the city. Having a historical background as the one Auroville has makes this city extraordinary and thus this reflects on the way that art is treated and created in Auroville. With different nationalities and cultures coming together, art is treated with immense respect and every culture and nationality brings in a little of their own roots with them to create a piece that is truly unique and Aurovillian in nature. For a city with a base such as the one that belongs to Auroville, it seems evident that their culture would have influences from all over the World and would be practiced and shared at ease in

Auroville. So what is this debate for? Is this discussion not completely sidetracking the Mothers

words and philosophy?

My words did more than just strike up defensive arguments; it brought out old memories and pushed emotions to the surface again. Jill took over this time. She explained that art was given its true credit in Auroville, but that was only when it came to the individual. Performances and exhibitions to the public were more controlled. However, she believed, and still believes in the free spirit of Auroville and thus had settled here from New Orleans. Auroville as a city was created to let creativity flow smoothly. It is a place where one can be alone with their thoughts and still have a higher productivity than when they would have had sitting in a room designated for work with people with bustling ideas. The diversity at Auroville can be looked upon as a blessing and a curse in disguise. With different cultures coming together from different backgrounds to settle in a single space, they eventually end up creating their own little spaces within this one massive structure. When this takes place, Auroville then contains several

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histories together which then produces this one magnificent history. The problem arises here when a public performance needs to be showcased. Views and opinions of those expressed on stage are the responsibilities of those who have performed or created a piece of work; and thus, even when it comes to the simplest of the elements of survival like food in Auroville, there exists a wide variety and rage of meals that are cooked at the Solar Kitchen (community kitchen) to satisfy the basic taste and health needs and this does not leave any room for disrespecting the various different cultures and backgrounds that have come to stay within Auroville.

With these reasons for diversity, Migelo being the newest member of the community spoke about his immediate reaction to the space that was created by diversity. The one constant factor that is always mentioned by Aurovillians is their ability to disconnect from their backgrounds and open up to new styles of creativity and productivity by working with different cultures and showing unity in diversity. For him, the ability to study a culture and watch folk performances to understand and learn a new culture was the best way to understand other places that exist in the world. And just like the entire Earth put together, Auroville also allows a space for unity in diversity to exist in harmony.

Auroville has time on her side. The culture in Auroville has space to be created and even invented. Culture plays an important role in defining a city. It is required so that a citizen can be in constant touch with his roots, or for a tourist to come and search for new roots. Culture in a newly developing city like Auroville is important since it allows space for histories, traditions and roots to be created. A link to mankind is important for any city, and thus, this influx of foreigners on a new piece of land they now call their own, needs culture to be developed and created so that they are able to form a land of their own, where they feel at home.

The fact that many cultures are involved in the process of creating this environment shows the use and importance of diversity in a relatively new space. For one in Auroville, a day would typically start with a wholesome South Indian meal of dosas and idlis at the community kitchen known as the Solar Kitchen, and a conversation where one would come across various accents. This would then follow with work in any of the sustainable industries that exist within Auroville, and then a long walk to either the Solar Kitchen or any of the cafés situated in and around the

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city where meals from all over the world could be accessed, if one just knew the correct roads to walk on. After a good meal, one would either visit the Internet café and work or get in touch with the outside world and then go for an evening event which would include either a reading of Savitri, a narrative poem written by Sri Aurobindo on a legend told in the Mahabharata or go for play readings where works from all across the world would be read together. For a more musical soul, one could either go to a jazz concert, watch a live rock band perform or listen to Bach under the open sky. One of the best ways to end a night in Auroville would be to attend an all night theatre festival in the open auditorium or watch a dance performance in a magically lit environment.

Life in Auroville revolves around the dream of being a utopian city for all artists. This space will be where every person consciously realizes his or her value in this society and is capable of understanding, appreciating and creating art: this would not only include arts and crafts, but also architecture and design, town planning and the performing arts. “… New forms, new sounds, new movements, new structures and new writing will emerge to give life to this consciousness in all its freedom, beauty, joy and simplicity.” 16

After listening to them talk and discuss the various aspects of a city that defines it, I understood the importance of the quote: unity in diversity. Just as it was necessary to understand the basic requirements of a healthy meal and not dwell upon each person‟s individual favorite, in the same manner, Auroville must respect and acknowledge these various backgrounds by allowing them to keep distinctness aside, yet simultaneously opening up a space for them to be themselves.

16 Auroville Culture

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Conclusion

We tried understanding Auroville through many parameters - economy, governance, administrations, and architecture and so on. However, these parameters are ones that we use to evaluate our system. We wonder if there is the possibility that these parameters might not be the appropriate ones to evaluate Auroville, which is a system very different from ours. As mentioned in the introduction, we tried changing our eyepieces.

Auroville is a city in danger right now. Auroville has many problems that have seeped in after the initial zest and energy that was present in the 70s. A sort of equilibrium is starting to set in, and possibly, therein lies the problem. Auroville thrives because of conflict, because of turmoil. This is a township where the very clichéd saying, “difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage; the human spirit is to grow strong by conflict” is actually seen through tangible achievements. And greater still, are perhaps the intangible ones that we have not been able to see, but perhaps feel. We could feel it in Auroville. It is not just the Mother and Sri Aurobindos holy doctrines that make this place spiritual. Every person, every establishment, every unit, believes in the larger picture. Doors are not locked when people leave their homes and food is shared with all. These small things are in all probability even greater in spirituality than any book or philosophy. Auroville claims to be a place where the human spirit evolves, a place where everyone makes this journey together.

Finally, there is something that needs to be said about the specific problems that Auroville is dealing with today. There is the possibility that while the Mother acknowledged the importance of a spiritual growth over an economic one, people have started regarding commerce and money to be evils that should be hidden, and not talked about, while they secretly work outside Auroville, trying to make ends meet. Because of this, and the law prohibiting possession of property, the young get dissuaded from coming to Auroville. The young are getting less and less, while the density of the old is becoming higher and higher. While similarity in thought is essential in a place like this, homogeneity can hinder growth. There has to be some exchange, some osmosis that allows new ideas to come in and old ones to be reevaluated.

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Partnership between the people from the neighboring villages and Aurovillians is something that Auroville should really consider. Instead of acting like a parent to them, it should become a partner, and not just in the business sense. There are certain laws that prohibit this from happening, but only Auroville has the capability to change this.

The subsequent matter is that of dependence. Dependence on the outside world seems almost hypocritical to what the spirit of Auroville apparently is. Grants and donations are merely a temporary fix, and there might come a time when they will stop. There is expenditure of paper currency, but hardly any production of it. The economy will slowly get deflated, which can cause serious tribulations. Auroville must learn to attain self-sustenance, and only then, can it really remove the paper currency like it wishes to. Like Sri Aurobindo himself said – “Material things are not to be despised -- without them there can be no manifestation in the material world.17

Also, there is an internal conflict of thought within Auroville regarding its future. Some believe that the master plan that was selected by the Mother is supreme and should not be changed while some believe that the present situation must be considered, and changes if required, should be made. This is another reason why Auroville is in a state of limbo right now there is no center that makes decisions. And without decisions, progress is hampered. Not only has Aurovilles initial plan of housing a population of 50,000 not been realized, it does not seem possible in the near future. There is no infrastructure nor is there any physical space to hold such a population. Even if there was, the internal conflicts of Auroville will only grow with more people if no path is selected.

This Discover India Project gave us lot of experiences, information, insight, and new relationships. There was however, no conclusion. How can one conclude an experience?

The Auroville experiment too, has a similar status. There is no conclusion. It is a process. The Mother said that it does not matter how soon the ideals that Auroville represents is concretized. The process of creating it, where all these countries collaborate, is enough to begin to reverse the destructive process that had set in.

17 Sri Aurobindo Quotes

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The only conclusion that applies, if at all, is in response to the aim of our project as we started out. We wondered if this deep spiritual and philosophical grounding to Auroville translates to real life activities, urban planning and other civic administration systems. And our experiential data suggests that it does. We see that for urban planning- the roads are in human proportion, there are no sudden turns and all the plans are adaptations of models in nature or the galaxy. We look at the economy, and its very core belief is the progress of the collective as opposed to the individual in the outside world. The concept of a cash-less, sustainable living begets a system of trust that could not hold without a deeply spiritual commonality amongst the people.

Next, in pertinence to Aurovilles relations with her neighbors and the villages around, there is a sense of inclusivity that is rare to find in other places. The amount of respect that is transacted between people from the village and Aurovillians far exceeds anything we see outside. There is sense of betrayal to the ideal of universal brotherhood and spirituality when it comes to the whole selection process, but that is a compromise, we learn, that has to be taken at this early stage for the realization of the ultimate dream.

What emerges most strong in relation to the spiritual background in which Auroville rose is definitely the people and their thriving, unique culture? Maybe a part of this should be attributed to selection process, but most of this has to go to the overbearing presence of the Mother and Sri Aurobindos philosophy on the place. In a report like this, it is tough to conclusively convey the energy of a place, but the truth is 11 of our experiences over the 7 days in Auroville left us all, even the most skeptical amongst us, undeniable in touch with the energy of the place. The rise of the collective consciousness that the Mother aspires for as the next evolutionary step to human beings may not be realized, but it is tough to ignore the optimism the region possesses to that effect. It may be a calm, green place but it is more overwhelming that bustle of the busiest city in India. People here strive for excellence in the areas that believe. Innovation and excellence is bound only by the barriers in your minds. Compare it to our normal cities, and it is evident that Auroville actually succeeds, in its small way, to create a platform where virtue for art and science or architecture is rewarded in equal measure. Such a communion of efforts is said to tune the minds of the collective together to bring about a strong, all-powerful collective

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consciousness, says the Mother. From the little time we were there, we were able to see that the final destination lies far ahead, but the wheels are certainly turning in the right direction.

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Epilogue

She looked at him with tender eyes. “You will be alright, my child”. She pulled him up, dusted his jeans, wiped his cheeks and patted him on his back. They both walked into the sunset, hand in hand.

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Pre-research

Geographical location

Pre-research Geographical location Auroville is located in a southern state of India, Tamil Nadu and is

Auroville is located in a southern state of India, Tamil Nadu and is situated 6 km north of the Union territory of Pondicherry a former French territory. The geographical coordinates of Auroville is 11.93N latitude and 79.83E longitudes. Auroville is a township that is completely independent of the Union territory of Pondicherry. It is situated 3-4 km off the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal, and is surrounded by 13 villages radially a few of which are Kuilapalyam, Periyarmudaliarchavadi, Bommaiyapalyam, Edayanchavadi, Morattandi, Acharampattu, Irumbai, Toruvai, Rayyapettai. The total combined area of the township and the green belt is 3930 acres (approx. 20 sq. km), where the city occupies approx. 1150 acres and the green belt of approx. 2780 acres of the total.

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Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo, along with his spiritual partner the Mother (Mirra Alfassa), devoted their lives to bring about the next stage of evolution of life on earth. Throughout his life, after giving up his life towards freedom struggle, Sri Aurobindo continued to work externally on his extensive pieces of writings, and internally to connect with the divine consciousness, and seep its properties and effects into the world. The Mother followed a similar path, but focused on the transformation of her own physical body into a forerunner of a new type of human „being, that what Sri Aurobindo called the „supramental being. The Mother also served as a connection; between the new evolutionary spiritual forces that Sri Aurobindo had spent his life discovering and their followers who were trying to open themselves to this new consciousness. We might witness the emergence of a new species, one that is above and beyond the present human race as we know it, is one of Sri Aurobindo's vision that asserts that us humans are not the final tread in this process of evolution, or perhaps it is possibly that we remain as the same human species, but evolving to a new level that appears very different in functioning, internally and externally from the current trend of humanity. Differences seen, emotionally, mentally, spiritually perhaps even physically one day!

The vision for a future society that Sri Aurobindo gave us was on the lines of; what if we transcended the limited thinking of the religions, the superstitions, of the East and the West? If we saw beyond our physical/material view of the world; if we went beyond an analysis of existence based solely on a scientific method that did not include the realm of consciousness and spirit? He believed that there is a future before us so utterly different than what we might expect, that there are forces and possibilities so overwhelming, that we must reassess our entire belief system, dismantle much of our intellectual underpinnings, and relearn a new idea of life so we can identify with this new future. 18

18 An introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s life and teachings

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The Mother

The Mother, born Mira Alfassa, collaborated with the Indian seer Sri Aurobindo, and for fifty years she ran the ashram founded by Sri Aurobindo, in Puducherry, South India; and together with him embarked on perhaps the greatest spiritual experiment in human history.

Sri Aurobindo had dedicated himself to the transformation of the human race from its current state of division, ignorance, dishonesty, suffering, and death to a new way of life of light, knowledge, wisdom, power, truth, peace, beauty, happiness, infinity, and oneness of Being. Through this, he discovered a new spiritual power and an extension of the Divine consciousness which he called 'Super-mind,' or Truth Consciousness. He believed that this Force and Power was not only responsible for the creation of the universe, but had now descended into the earth's atmosphere and could effectuate the change that would bring about these new evolutionary stages for humanity.

In the 1920s, The Mother, born in Algeria and raised in France, joined Sri Aurobindo in his endeavor. For decades after, she opened herself to this Force, becoming a channel for its action; affecting her own being, the status of the gathered disciples, and the conditions of the world.

Even now after her passing (1974), many across the globe continue to open to the Supramental Force and Power she represents. Those doing so have suddenly been relieved of major problems, have seen miraculous turnabouts in their fortune, have quickly risen to the material and career heights, have overcome serious illness, and have witnessed a dramatic change in their consciousness, awareness, and nature. In fact, many have acknowledged that the effectiveness and responsiveness of the Force is greater since her passing into the subtle plane.

Perhaps the Mother's greatest personal achievement occurred in the later decades of her life. From about the age of 70 until her death at age 94 in 1974, she made the difficult attempt at the transformation of her own physical body, in order to become the forerunner of a new type of human being; a new species beyond Man.

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Whereas her disciples and followers around the world aspired to change their vital and mental nature (e.g. ego, falsehood, ignorance, limited attitude, fixed habits, etc.), the Mother had already attained that perfection at birth. Thus, her mission in this incarnation (as Divine Mother) was to make the more difficult transformation of her physical body, thereby ushering in a new human species with a divinized ('supramentalized') body.

Her first goal was to find the inner causes of illness, suffering, and pain. A second goal was to overcome the inevitability of death itself; including why the cells decay over time. Over time, she saw that it was only by surrendering to and interjecting the spiritual Force that the programming of the cells could be negated, enabling a new plasticity and responsiveness in the substance of her body. She continued this extraordinary experiment of physical transformation until the end.

During those years she had an array of astounding experiences, in which she travelled the spiritual planes, embodied the future supramental race in her person, experienced the pulsations of creation, transferred her consciousness around the world, changed global events, and many others too numerous to mention. Her experiences that have been captured in the 13 volumes of 'The Agenda,' is perhaps the most astonishing spiritual chronicle in the history of the human race.

In 1968 The Mother founded Auroville, the international community of peace and spiritual growth. Its purpose is to be an experimental community where individuals can make the effort to evolve beyond their present limitations. Auroville has been established as an experiment in Human Unity where each individual is freed from bondage to moral and social conventions and the necessity of working for material possessions. There is no religion practiced there, no money used, no ownership of property. The emphasis is on each person discovering his/her own inner center behind the social, moral, cultural and racial heredity and appearances, and actively living from that center, expressing it in outer work for the community. Auroville is a UN sponsored endeavor that attracts people worldwide because of its openness, new age lifestyle, and dedication to a vision of a new humanity 19 .

19 Overview of the life of the Mother

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Historical Context

Auroville as conceptualized by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was the creation of an ideal society, which would be a living embodiment of human unison, an abode of interminable learning and prosperity and a city, which rises above the entanglements of capitalism, hierarchy and material accumulations. The quest for actualizing this dream project however truly begun after the Mother formed a liaison with a French architect named Roger Anger, who besotted the Mother by depicting the town plan in the form of an extraordinary spiral galaxy.

Acquisition of Land was the foremost issue that aspiring Aurovilians dealt with. The project however gained momentum after the Mother shared her aspirations with the locals in South India and suggested them to engage themselves towards the creation of this “city of dawn”. The image of a space that represented human unison mesmerized the locals towards lending their private land holdings towards the expansion of the project. Land for the physical creation of Auroville was initially bought under the Sri Aurobindo Societys Act. Soon this project began burgeoning with the involvement of powerful businessmen, town planners and endorsements from private donors as well as the Government of India in 1966.

On the 28th of February 1968, delegates of 124 nations inaugurated Auroville and the Mother laid down a four-point charter setting forth her vision of this Universal City. With the death of the mother in 1973, there commenced an unending conflict between the trustees of Sri Aurobindo Society and the Aurovilians over the authority and decision making of the future of Auroville.

In the 70s, the project faced massive challenges due to both parties staking their claim over Auroville. Thus all activity came to a halt, which lead to unemployment followed by adversities of draughts and unfinished projects, and eventually the GOI intervened and took over the management of Auroville under the Auroville Emergency Provisions Act. The GOI sent its officers to act as guardians and settle disputes among the residents and stakeholders. During the period of 1973-1978, Aurovilles expansion and growth came to a complete standstill as funds were withdrawn from then project and the police involvement deterred prospective investors. At

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the same time, Aurovilians were constantly negotiating with the GOI for a separate legal status. Finally in 1988, the Auroville Foundation Act was drafted. The Act provides for the acquisition and transfer of the undertakings of Auroville. The Act also vests such undertakings in a foundation that was established for the purpose of making long- term arrangements for the better management and further development of Auroville, in accordance with its original charter and, for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

A Galaxy Model

In 1964, the Mother sketched the shape of Auroville, which encompassed the four zones the Residential Zone, Industrial Zone, Cultural Zone and the International Zone. She then chose the French Architect, Roger Anger to become the chief architect of the project. Roger Anger presented to the Mother, three varied interpretations of her concept in the form of the hexagonal model, rectangular model and nebula model between the years 1965-1967. While the nebula model in its circular form was closest to the Mother‟s symbol, it lacked dynamics. Thus, after further study and exploration, Roger finally put forth the Galaxy model in the year 1968, which was willingly accepted by Mother. The model though innovative and original; it was conceived without any knowledge regarding the exact physical location for the city. It had thus not taken into account the climate, topography and existing settlements within the township region. The

Master Plan for „The Auroville Universal Townshipplaces at its center the Matrimandir with

its gardens, the gigantic Banyan tree and the amphitheatre, which becomes the soul of the city. The Matrimandir is surrounded by the four zones, which in turn are encircled by a 15 sq. km green belt whose function is primarily to protect the city of Auroville.

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20 The Galaxy Model of Auroville The Four Zones: While most cities adopted the Concentric

20

The Galaxy Model of Auroville

The Four Zones:

While most cities adopted the Concentric Zone model (Sociologist E.W.Burgess, 1923), Sector model (Economist Homer Hoyt, 1939) or the Multiple Nuclei Model as developed by geographers C.D Harris and E.L. Ullman in 1945 of planning, Aurovilles Galaxy model is unprecedented in the history of town planning. The Master Plan divides the development of the city into the four zones: Industrial Zone, Cultural Zone, Residential Zone and International Zone.

North - cultural zoneCultural Zone, Residential Zone and International Zone. East - Industrial section South - International section West

East - Industrial sectionZone and International Zone. North - cultural zone South - International section West - residential zone.

South - International sectionZone. North - cultural zone East - Industrial section West - residential zone. 2 0 Design

West - residential zone.- cultural zone East - Industrial section South - International section 2 0 Design Blog- Category

20 Design Blog- Category Architecture

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These four zones are interconnected through the “Crownwhich is a circular road around the Matrimandir.

International Zone: The International Zone illustrates the existing universality in Auroville. These pavilions are created to become multi-functional centers of creativity, representation, research and cultural interactions. Currently this 170 acre of land holds the Bharat Nivas, the Visitors Center, U.S. Pavilion, the Tibetan Pavilion and the Unity Pavilion.

Industrial Zone: The Industrial Zone, which is spread of 363 acres of land, is the home for Town Hall and other small-scale cottage industries. All activities ranging from garment manufacturing, furniture design and production, renewable energy products, stationery, financial services, etc. take place in this segment of the city. Unlike most cities, the industrial zone at Auroville is lively, eco-sensitive and humane. There are currently 800+ people who are employed in about 40 such industries.

Cultural Zone: The 250 acres of this zone are dedicated for purposes of educational institutes, research centers, sports complexes, auditoriums, gardens, parks and other recreational facilities.

Residential Zone: This zone is spread over 412 acres of land. The residential zone aims to provide for housing, dining facilities in the form of community kitchens, provisional stores, educational centers, walk-ways, gardens, and health centers along with restaurants, libraries and work-studios. The residential zone in some way then, tries to become a self-sustained entity that would cater to the daily needs and activities of any individual.

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Matrimandir

Matrimandir At the centre of this galaxy model, almost symbolic to the sun, lies a golden

At the centre of this galaxy model, almost symbolic to the sun, lies a golden dome shaped structure – “the soul of the city, the Matrimandir. It is situated in an area of Auroville called Peace, from this centre, Auroville radiates outwards.

Though incomplete, the Matrimandir rising out of the earth symbolizes the emergence of a new consciousness seeking to manifest in the people of the land. It is seen by the Mother as the symbol of the Divine's answer to man's aspiration for perfection” and as “the central cohesive forcefor the growth of Auroville.

The name 'Matrimandir' means literally 'Temple of the Mother'. According to Sri Aurobindo's teaching, the 'Mother' concept stands for the great evolutionary, conscious and intelligent principle of Life, the Universal Mother, - which seeks to help humanity move beyond its present limitations into the next step of its evolutionary adventure, the supramental consciousness.

The inner chamber in the Matrimandir is white, with white marble floors and a white carpet flooring it. In the centre is a clear crystal ball that spreads a ray of electronically guided light throughout the room. There are no images, no organised meditations, no flowers, no incense, no religion or religious forms. Let it not be a religionsaid the Mother. “What the new consciousness wants (it is on this that it insists) is: no more divisions and to be able to understand the spiritual extreme, the material extreme, and to find the meeting point, the point where that becomes a real force."

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The Auroville Foundation

The Auroville Foundation 21 Auroville acquired a separate legal status as a semi-autonomous body in 1988.

21

Auroville acquired a separate legal status as a semi-autonomous body in 1988. The Auroville foundation came into existence through the formation of the Auroville Foundation Act 1988, which divides the administration of Auroville into a 3-tier system namely; the Governing Board, the International Advisory Council and the Residents' Assembly. The Residents assembly manages the daily activities of the community; the governing board undertakes the task of the overall welfare and development of the community and the International advisory council advices the community. The Act also states the existence of a Secretary for the Foundation, who is a permanent resident of Auroville throughout his/her tenure of appointment and who is directly responsible to the Chairperson of the Foundation. The Residents Assembly selects the Working Committee from its members, who also become a liaison with the Governing Board, International Advisory Council and other affairs of an external nature.

Auroville Foundation Act, 1988

The Auroville Foundation is a body corporate appointed by the Central Government of India under The Auroville Act, September 29, 1988, to be responsible for all the assets of Auroville. This Act was promulgated to take over the affairs and management of Auroville and all its undertakings pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court of India. The Auroville Foundation was notified on 29.01.1991. The office of the Auroville Foundation at Auroville, Tamil Nadu has been functioning since, under the administrative control of Ministry of H.R.D. as a statutory

21 Auroville Foundation- Organization

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(autonomous) body corporate, Government of India

Board, consisting mainly of distinguished Indian citizens. The body of adult residents, the Residents Assembly is, as per the Act, responsible for day-to-day management, and the International Advisory Council has been instituted to monitor and encourage the progress of Auroville.

The Auroville Foundation has a Governing

Internal organization

Managing the internal organization of Auroville is yet again an ongoing challenge, which the Resident‟s Assembly battles with. Executive bodies know as the “Working Committee” or “The Executive Council” was formed as a result of the general meetings that took place among the Residents Assembly for tackling issues related to internal decision making. However due to obstacles such as poor attendance, inability to reach to a consensus and difference of opinion such attempts were proven to be unsuitable and ineffective. As of today, Auroville strives to construct appropriate platforms and methodologies to address the issues of internal decision- making.

The Resident’s Assembly

The Residents Assembly comprises of people who are of the age of eighteen years and above and whose name has been entered in the Register of Residents maintained by the Secretary under section 18 (2) of the Auroville Foundation Act. This critical mass is empowered to participate towards decision-making mechanisms in Auroville. The Residents Assembly is expected to gather and discuss over matters concerning to Auroville and as a whole come to an agreeable viewpoint. This viewpoint then is expected to translate itself into action towards the betterment of Auroville.

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Economy

As per its Charter, Auroville will be a place human evolution and growth, both materialistic and spiritual. To achieve this, there must be integration of all spheres of life, from the spiritual to the social to the economic. The economic segment is possibly the toughest one to integrate as spirituality and economics are usually considered to be mutually exclusive. The economy of Auroville is an experimental one, where the system is constantly changing to be better aligned with the philosophy and spirit of Auroville. This spirit is based on the teachings of the Mother.

Auroville strives to have an economic system where there is no exchange of money. "For in this ideal place money would be no more the sovereign lord. Work would not be the means of gaining one's livelihood, it would be the means whereby one expresses oneself, developing one's capacities and possibilities, while doing at the same time service to the whole group, which on its side would provide for each one's subsistence and for his field of work." 22

Based on this philosophy, every Aurovillian is expected to contribute to the Auroville common fund. This action of voluntary donation and sharing is the essence of bringing about a system where there eventually will be no money circulation. Generally speaking, Auroville is the amalgamation of three different but not disjoint economies.

The collective economy: This economy consists of all the „units‟ that provide goods and services for the whole community. The funding for these activities either comes from the community pot, or from non-profit cost covering activities, or even a combination of the two. These activities include forestry, farming, food preparation and distribution, the provision of electricity, conventional and alternative, and water as well as telephone, roads and personal services such as healthcare, clothing and hairdressing. There are also a variety of educational and cultural activities conducted through this economy. Lastly, planning, development and administration all come under this.

22 Overview- Auroville, A universal city in the making

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The commercial economy: This economy is based on trusteeship rather than ownership. In this economy, there are units that export goods and hence provide a large contribution to the Central fund. The smaller units produce handicrafts and artistic goods. The money generated from these smaller units is partly into the Central fund, but mostly is directly put into funding specific activities.

The “in kind” economy: This is the most informal economy of the three. This consists of all the

donations and „giftsthat are contributed by not only Aurovilians but also national and

international bodies. This money is allocated by need, but there is some amount of power that is given to the contributors as to where the money should be allocated. However, the website states that this part of the economy has never actually been accurately quantified.

Cottage Industries

The Mother envisioned industry and commerce to be an integral part of life in Auroville and a means of financially sustaining the economy of the Auroville community. She designated one of Auroville's four zones as the 'Industrial Zone', and named it 'Auroshilpam'. As this Sanskrit name connotes, industries in Auroville are mainly small-scale and pollution-free. Many of them deal with handicrafts. These 'business units', as they are called, either provide the basic material necessities for the residents of the community or generate income for the general maintenance of the township, while also sponsoring other projects for the community and in the neighboring villages.

Papyrus - It is a stationery-making unit that is located in the New Creation Corner that is run by French guy, and a small number of his employees. They make articles such as handmade paper, photo albums covered with cotton or silk, leather items and small handmade paper notebooks. Most of their produce is made for Aurovilians itself.

Bijou This is also run by a French designer, Gillian. She has employed 1o women who use colourful beads that are used for bags, jewelry and other accessories. This unit is located in Kottakarai.

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Auroknit this unit situated in Alankuppam, focuses on making garments and other items by knitting natural fires and leather. The workers are skilled and are trained in fine hand techniques to create designs and variety.

Upasana main aim is not the commercial development of their products, but is their strong philosophy to respect everyone‟s life and find alternative and green solutions for the production of their garments. Their field of work ranges from social work and upliftment, design consultancy and education and design and production of garments. One such example is the „Tsunamika‟ dolls. This was a venture taken by Upasana to employ and uplift those affected by the Tsunami on the coast of Tamil Nadu. They empower and employee women who are trained in simple skills of stitching and colour coordinating and learn simple designs to produce these dolls and bags – now very popular called „Small Steps. The latter is to promote the use of cloth bags and reduce plastic.

Well Papers located in Kottakarai, employ over 6o women from the neighbouring villages who twist and weave paper to make into baskets, jewelry, and decorative items. Their products are an outcome of reused news papers. WELL stands for Womens Empowerment through Local Livelihood. After about 4-6 months of training, women produce these products in their own shared profit units in the villages.

Svaram 25 years of global academic and experimental research in the field of music, sound dynamics and consciousness, has set up this unit. Svaram conducts vocational training funded by donations as well as research projects on musical instruments for a new pedagogy. The unit consists of experts as well as trainees from local villages and volunteers and student working and researching on the same. Their exploratory spirit of work, have fascinating outcomes such as chimes, singing stones, flutes, xylophones.

The Auroville Board of Commerce (ABC) is the central decision taking committee for the Industrial sector. It consists of executives of all of Auroville‟s commercial units, within which they appoint a Core Group to take care of the day-to-day activities of these units. The Core

83

Group of the Board meet regularly to approve new units, handle applications for business credits, organize yearly auditing of accounts, and advise units regarding accounts, finance, marketing, management, etc.

Potential correspondence:

Name

Profession

 

Jesse

Member of the Auroville Council

 

Suhasini Iyer

Town Planner/ Architect

 

Mona Pingel

Architect

 

Lalit Bhatti

Planning Board Member

 

Luigi

Core Member of the working Committee

Astrid

Actor-

comic

theatre-„Auroville

Improv

Group‟

Manohar

Auroville Website

 

Jill Navarre

Director/Screenwriter/playwright

 

Tenesse

Sustainability Expert

 

Vishaka Desai

International Advisory Council

 

Chamanlal Gupta

Physicist/Environmentalist

 

Nadaka

Musician/Vocalist

 

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Primary data

While at Auroville, we interacted and engaged in deep conversation with many people from the field of town planning, architecture, theatre, economy amongst others. There were also brief interactions with the locals and the residents of the surrounding villages to understand their perspective on Auroville. Since the township of Auroville is extremely unique, it took some effort on our part to first understand the fundamentals of the city before we could delve into our specific topics of interest. Since Auroville has a population of almost 3000, which further drops during summer time, our process of data acquisition was highly dependent on the availability of the concerned people. Having established contacts before reaching Auroville, the act of meeting people became simpler. The four cameras and two video cameras were rotated between all the members of the group so as to acquire the necessary documentation through means of informal interviews, power-point presentations, hands-on learning experiences and aimless exploration. Some amount of information was also acquired through the archives in Auroville. The seven daytrip thus provided us with ample amounts of knowledge and gave us an insight into the Aurovillian community.

The following interviews were conducted by us during our visit.

Social Governance and Decision Making

us during our visit. Social Governance and Decision Making Mona Pingel, Architect Could you elaborate a

Mona Pingel, Architect

Could you elaborate a little on the bureaucratic nature?

- No, you know it‟s just that when you take money from somebody, it never comes for free. There‟s always something that you have to give back in return and so that makes it a little complicated with our ideal state. Like for instance, the Matrimandir has been built with public funds and donations and then we want to say that Mother has said that it is a place for concentration, meant for people who are living here and then at the same time we can never close

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it down completely because we‟ve used outside money to build it. Not like Matrimandir is a bad thing, because it does touch many peoples lives, but how do you find that balance is the tricky question. It‟s the same with government funding. Once you start using government money you need to engage with all the specifications and start doing the BOQs (bill of quantities), and all this changed Auroville. I say this because earlier I feel we were building with so much trust; it was like a team, you know the client; the contractor and architect would be like a team. It was not commercial, it‟s not because were doing it for… it was a very different synergy. But now it‟s become like, oh! Youve to do tendering and youve to do so many other things, which is completely against what we believe in because if we wanted to do all that we would have been working outside. But because we felt that the outside system was not something ideal and definitely not something I want to deal with- I do not want to get involved in the bureaucracy and the political/ government issues that I came to Auroville…

the political/ government issues that I came to Auroville… Yes … but…. How does the Auroville

Yes … but…. How does the Auroville community include an individual in its decision making process?

- Well, it does provide a lot of opportunity for people who want to speak, but for those who do not want to there are other ways. Actually the whole base of Auroville is integral Yoga. So it‟s not just about community and collective life. Of course collective life is one of the aims. But when you are doing Yoga there are many ways of communicating. It‟s not just verbally; it can be through energy levels or vibrations. One does not need to feel that you need to speak in order to be heard. Auroville is also about faith. You cannot survive in Auroville if you do not have faith. Once you have that faith it‟s the trust that Auroville is growing and developing in the way it should and you‟re you are doing your best to foster its growth. That‟s the only thing you can do. For some people talking is good, because they are good at it and can help that way. But for others that may not be their way. Everyone can go about it their own way and just because they choose an alternate way of communication, it does not mean that they are not an integral part of Auroville. Meetings are not the only way to be a part of Auroville.

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Auroville and its Locals Mona Pingel, Architect What about the relationship between the Aurovillians and

Auroville and its Locals

Mona Pingel, Architect

What about the relationship between the Aurovillians and the villages?

- That‟s a tricky question, because I can only answer from my point of view. It has become tough in the last years. When I came in 87, it was never even a question. For me, the villages were a part of us and you stayed with them and learned with/from them- but in the last 2-3 years I‟ve felt that I‟m a Gujarati and not a Tamilian, which is quite strange and a little scary too. I feel completely outnumbered here. If something happens here, if the villagers become unhappy and they sometimes start throwing things or block the roads and all those kinds of things, I don‟t know… this feeling never existed earlier. But now as we are growing, the villages are also slowly growing, the tensions are growing; the disparities are growing, because it‟s bound to happen. Also they are getting more educated and their aspirations are changing. I don‟t know even as an Indian I sometimes find it difficult. After all I also come from a city and I do not know what rural India is all about. You may do some studies… in architecture also you have to do one study about either low cost housing or you study a small settlement within Ahmedabad, but that only gives you a little idea. It does not touch you, because it is not your life. So it‟s the same here. It takes you a long time to discover. Also, if I as an Indian feel this way, I can‟t quite imagine how people from other cultures experience the villagers. Lot of the villagers are doing a lot of good work in Auroville. They have very good positions in Auroville. If you visit our financial services there are mainly only Tamilians sitting there with a few people to direct them. So they (the villagers) do have a lot a power. There are also a lot of them working in households, taking care of houses and all that. So to understand where they are coming from and to change their mentality is extremely difficult.

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Suhasini Iyer, Architect

What about participation of locals at various levels? For example, I have observed that most of the locals are usually doing the cleaning work, they are planting trees, and they are doing work at the basic levels. What about participation at higher levels?Suhasini Iyer, Architect - You see that is where we have an enormous problem… with a

- You see that is where we have an enormous problem… with a girl child it‟s still a practice that when she starts her periods her parents stop the education, and its somewhere around 13 ,14,15. So she is never going beyond 6th, 7th grade. And at one point what happens is that they tell her at the age of… because they know we don‟t take on people before they are 16 or 17, so at that point they are out to the job market. With the skill level she has and the learning curve she can only learn on the job, unfortunately. So there is a glass ceiling that happens automatically because the need for certain kind of jobs and for certain kinds of responsibility a certain academic background that comes with it. In a way I feel that we are not large enough to provide this academic background on the job also…

Architecture

Suhasini Iyer, Architect

What are the primary materials used in Auroville in terms of sustainable Architecture?on the job also… Architecture Suhasini Iyer, Architect - I think everything is used, but there

- I think everything is used, but there is a lot of brick and mud. Mud is used a lot but I would not say it is primary. Ferrous cement is used a lot. We have an Earth Institute that is doing very good work and a brick making (mud blocks) press in CSR. I‟m not so sure if it‟s cost-efficient because it‟s all about how and where you use it. These words like cost-efficient and sustainability are just hyped. Cost efficiency depends on a lot of factors like the type of soil and the available labor. On the whole, it is said that it‟s gentler to the earth if one uses materials like mud, which are available in nature but that does not mean that mud is the best everywhere. One should use what is available locally where one is building. If stone is available, one should use stone and in the end sustainability is about a way of life. It‟s not about what you build and what you eat- everything that you do needs to be in a cycle.

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So how are spaces different here as opposed to any other city/ urban space? For instance, we‟ve noticed that there are hardly any doors. Spaces seem very open. But what other factors noticed that there are hardly any doors. Spaces seem very open. But what other factors come into play when you design any given space?

- I think up till now what you‟ll see is that we are very much in tune with the nature, so there‟s a lot of indoor- outdoor connection, which is different, because we can afford it. Privacy is not such an issue for us so we can have big openings unlike cities. Also, thefts are not such a pig problem yet because people are not that greedy yet. I mean if we reach a population size of 50,000 then a different kind of psychology will creep in. But living in Mumbai you can‟t imagine leaving your doors open through the day and feeling safe. But here is it possible, because the villagers are also very simple and God-fearing. It‟s also something that‟s true of South Indian mentality, but they are more religious. I‟d had some instances where they‟d broken down some of the signage boards that I‟d designed and then I just inserted a small tile with an image of a god into one of the columns and after that nothing ever happened. So in terms of spaces, I‟d say we can be more open; freer.

What about public facilities? I mean are the community spaces similar to those like gardens and open grounds as seen in other cities or are they more focused spaces created to cater to maximum needs?in terms of spaces, I‟d say we can be more open; freer. - I think our

- I think our public spaces have been generated over the years out of sheer need. The solar kitchen was one of those, but I think the Visitor‟s center was one of the earlier, bigger community spaces created. Bharat Nivas was there too, but it was in ruins and also that it was already a concept of the master plan. But I guess, everything was a part of the master plan, but that never worked. The visitor‟s center happened because there were so many tourists who began to come in and then the solar kitchen was constructed. One thing very nice about Auroville is that all the children get food in the schools and all the parents can go and eat in the solar kitchen, so everyone is free to work. That makes a big difference to the society. Almost all the women in the society are working. They do not have any sort of societal pressures on them. Of course the local Tamilians are slightly different, but even then- most of them once their kids are a little older, they start working. It‟s so simple because your lunch is taken care of; there are no homely duties. Breakfast and dinner they can manage. Life and Identity

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Mona Pingel, Architect

So what‟s the one thing that makes you want to live at Auroville?Mona Pingel, Architect - Because I think it still nurtures me. Also, I do not have

- Because I think it still nurtures me. Also, I do not have kids but if I ever had kids, I would definitely live in Auroville because it‟s the best childhood one can give to the kids. It‟s the best base. For me Auroville is an ideal place. I do not feel like I‟m missing out on anything. There‟s so much to do here and Auroville completely supports me and my search for my own self. Auroville is definitely not for everybody, but for me Auroville is Paradise. I feel what I‟ve got from Auroville in the last twenty years, I‟d never get from a city like Ahmadabad.

Anita, Member of L‟Avenir d‟Auroville

What do mean by, “They have to go earn money to live here”. How is living at Auroville defined? defined?

- Living in Auroville, if you live according to the economic policy that Auroville has adopted, you get maintenance, a salary no matter what you are doing. You are supposed to be having a common salary of RS. 6000 plus a free lunch in one of our places plus your contributions to Auroville is paid for. That is obviously, when you are alone its fine and living simply you can… when I came here I remember my salary was Rs. 1600 and all my friends outside said, “but how can you live with that kind of money” but I had no problems with living with that amount of money here when I was living alone. The moment you have a family, the moment you have needs that are a little bigger the community does not have enough funds collectively to pay for the extra needs of people, so you have to supplement your dreams somewhere. So either people take on projects here or because a lot of foreign nationals that we have in Auroville have families back in their countries so depending of grandparents, family out there…you know… many Aurovillians are helped by their families, many of them, because they would not even be able to go home and visit their families on their own budgets. We don‟t have a system here where Auroville pays for its Aurovillians to go visit their alien grandparents in Europe or even in India, so we are not really… the tie is not cut off and it cannot be cut off and that is a reality there

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again. There are people here who believe that if you are here you never… there are people here who have never left Auroville for 40 yrs you know but there are others who are not able to make that choice and do not want that choice and they are still tied to other things and that should not be judged, so…but that means they require other things.

As an individual, how do you perceive your interaction/ relation with the Auroville community? I‟ve been told that there are several meetings that are conducted and I‟ve also been I‟ve been told that there are several meetings that are conducted and I‟ve also been told about the intranet, which is a popular medium of communication between the Aurovillians amongst others.

- One way to participate and engage with the community is to attend meetings and go to the intranet, but there are many ways of being a part of the commune. For me personally, what I‟ve seen is that you can be a part of the community even without attending the meetings because I feel very connected with the people here. I really feel it‟s my family here. Of course, it‟s different when I go to Ahmedabad, but I do think that this is my home now. So I do not have questions about whether or not I belong here.

Is there a real sense of security in Auroville, like we‟ve been travelling around and we have not seen any guards as such except one right opposite the solar kitchen. seen any guards as such except one right opposite the solar kitchen.

- Yes, we have system of guards, actually main crossing points and these guard came into being because during the tourism season … no we two major problems, that one over the years there has been rise of criminal elements in the local area like in the rest of the country. And this often comes because of… from the media they have access to possibilities of a better life but in reality in rural India better life is not happening. People still don‟t have access to education, health and social welfare. So there is a frustration that‟s building up constantly in rural India, anywhere in the world it‟s the same thing. You see what the possibilities are but you don‟t have access to reach those possibilities. Especially with the youth in the local area its quite high. And there has been an enormous growth in the tourism in the country and you have people who come from different cultures who don‟t realize certain social fabric that we are living with. They become super friendly with these guys and they don‟t realize the cultural for pas that they do. So there a women who hang out with the local fellows, they are not appropriately dressed. They don‟t know the appropriate body language and then when they are molested or things like that, it becomes

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difficult for us. And that has been rising in a way. And you can‟t tell somebody who is coming for 2 weeks from a non- Asian country that the way you are dressed and they way you are talking to these guys and the way you are hanging out is what is doing that because they say, “come on, how can you say that, the women‟s liberation was nothing? I can where the clothes that I want wear and the guy has to be the one who has to rain a tin.” And they don‟t realize that the gender equality movement that went on in Europe took 45 – 50 years. And it‟s happening only now since the mid 90s in this country, where men realize that the woman has equal rights to express herself the way she wants, without it being a sexual common and you have to give time for the psyche to change. You can‟t just finger point like that. So we have guards because of that… we have bag snatching, we have people actually harassing others on the road. So because of that we are obliged to have guards on the roads. Suhasini Iyer, Architect

to have guards on the roads. Suhasini Iyer, Architect So are these thefts mainly run by

So are these thefts mainly run by the locals or you can‟t pick?

- You don‟t know because the policing is only by the few guards that we have. Stolen goods, when they finally track down, by the police, you don‟t know how they get it, where they get it and we don‟t want to get involved in that area of the country where these things that happen. So we corporate with the police as much a possible, we allow them access to come and investigate. But in certain kinds of problems when we know its certain local people, we deal directly with them through the panchayat.

- So we have an organization within Auroville which is made up of local people who have joined Auroville who work as our communication platform with a few other people, with the panchayats. So we use that as own problem dealing. Even for development, like we do water and sanitation programs with them and added welfare programs with them, we use these two platforms with them as a communication gap between the two cultures. And so that‟s how the business entry… and then in terms of course conflicts we have between the cultures whatever and that we have a certain mediation group that takes care of it, not all the time we can solve it but most of the time we come to some kind of consensus about it.

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Education

Jesse, Member of Auroville Council

In terms of opportunity for universities after 18 years of age, there is no form of education. Why so?Education Jesse, Member of Auroville Council - Well it depends on how you define it. One

- Well it depends on how you define it. One of Auroville dreams is that it is an unending education and I think anybody who lives with open eyes can see that. No matter where you live or what you do, everyday you learn something. So the entire meaning of life is one huge lesson, a journey from one point to another, you grow and change and become something else and if you don‟t think that you are learning something then you are in denial.

Why does a University not exist as of now?that you are learning something then you are in denial. - Things take time to happen

- Things take time to happen anywhere I the world and especially in a place like Auroville where there is no central government. Auroville is linked with the Indian government but it operates as a semi-independent, sort of like an NGO but it has for example: an IAS officer connected with one of the committees and he influences partially the growth of Auroville. But as far as I can tell the Indian government supports the dream of Auroville. It supports the notion of the development of a roughly circular city; some raw sketches at the beginning indicated a kind of a galaxy plan like a spiraling thing with a ball in the middle and so the details of it were never really made absolute- explicit from day one. No one said that there will be a university and it will be here and it will be begun then and it will be funded in this way. The only way a university would emerge is if a very committed person or a group of committed people decide to make it happen. They say we believe very strongly that it should happen, then they identify and overcome all the obstacles which would be funding, location and permission.

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Table: Primary Data as archived in CD1

 

Title

Type

Quantity

1

Interview with Suhasini Iyer; Architect

 

Transcript

1

2

Interview with Anita; Town Planner

 

Transcript

1

3

Conversation

with

Mr.

Lalit;

Member

of

Audio File

2

Planning Board

4

Interview with Mr. Louigi; Core member of Working Committee

Audio File

2

6

Conversation with Jesse

 

Audio File

1

9

Conversation with Mona Pingel; Architect

 

Audio File

1

10

Auroville Map

Photo

1

Document

11

Exhibit 1

Photo

1

Document

12

List of Villages

PDF

1

Document

13

Social Changes 1

 

Photo

1

Document

14

Social Changes 2

 

Photo

1

Document

Table: Primary Data as archived in CD2

 
 

Title

Type

Quantity

1

Conversation with Meenakshi; Poet

 

Video File

6

2

Visit to Sadhana Forest

 

Video File

3

3

Visit to Well-Paper

 

Video File

3

94

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Acknowledgements

We would sincerely like to thank all the people who have helped us along our journey, from the DIP committee members to our three mentors (thank you Prasad Sir, Maya Maam and Rahul Sir) and our co traveler Abhishek. And most importantly we would like to thank the residents of Auroville. Especially, Mr.Lalit Bhatti, Dhruv, Mr. Louigi, Mr. Sauro, Anita, Suhasini, Jesse, Rakhi , and Karthik and the Adhishakti Group without whom we would not have had people to meet and food to eat. We would also like to thank the Sadhana Forest community for showing us an awesome movie and then treating us to some even more awesome vegan food. And finally, we would like to thank The Mother for making any of this possible and we thank her for blessing us for our victory in this project; we know everything is not about money, but sometimes its nice.

The Auroville Group

- Aalisha Sheth

- Abhik Basu

- Atisha Lama

- Harsh Solanke

- Hazel Mehta

- Kabeer Kathpalia

- Malvika Bhagwat

- B.A. Namrata

- Phuntsog Dorjee

- Richa Sheth

- Ruhi More

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