On Auroville

Comments dt. 14.06.2014

I am here in Auroville for vacation when the Aurovillians are vacationing elsewhere, so I am trying to make friends with dogs, cats and cows — no luck with the dogs till now though the cats seems to have got attracted with my looks, but the cow milk is for kids and, anyways, I don’t like milk — and this is actually the real challenge in Auroville because the man here has ingrained politeness. However, the most intriguing thing is the diffusion of politeness even among the local Tamilians. But, that doesn’t satisfy my cynical self. I know I am doing injustice to this place by writing below what I am first because I have been here only for two days, so it’s premature, and secondly it is also lopsided and speculative.

I have some serious doubts about the feasibility of this experiment. The stated purpose of Auroville is to establish statuses on the basis of knowledge and self-worth of a person, but not his material possessions, acquired and inherited. But, I already have inklings that an average Aurovillilain is money minded. As far as I have understood, an average Aurovillian here is engaged in a small business or in an executive/administrative/knowledge job. Though it is a premature observation, but, I think, in general, the foreigners are the managers/entrepreneurs and the Tamililians are the workers. There definitely exists an elite class, which is controlling the decision making: I think there are big entrepreneurs, community leaders and governors, who work in tandem and make decisions. The role of the big entrepreneurs seems to be to fund subsidies, which must be giving them power, but let me clarify that the big entrepreneur here is no bigger than a small five star restaurant owner or a small factory/workshop owner, so the local community — which is sometimes ludicrously small comprising just two-three people — must be having a substantial say in the matters concerning them. However, I have felt that, in spite of a maintenance allowance, an average Aurovillian wants to earn more, which could be either to enter the elite club (which means the people are not satisfied with their statuses and the work per se and, still worse, they think that money can buy them status) or to fund their finances (which means those who can’t fund their finances are looked down upon by themselves or by the fellow Aurovilians; in either case, it reflects a failure); though it is Utopian but one possibility is also that the Aurovillians take pride in contributing to the community, and the best an average Aurovillian understands contribution is through financial contribution; however, my cynical self is failing to accept this possibility. Whatever, one thing is for sure that there are existing statuses which are not purely knowledge based, which manifests best in the houses occupied by the Aurovillians: some people have amazingly magnificent houses, yet others have none. They are trying to  address this issue, I would say, insensitively: they are building apartments with shared toilets — I don’t know who came up with this brilliant idea, but one thing is for sure that Auroville needs to reserve some space for construction of a mental asylum very soon; come on, community living is about sharing ideas not underwears. Any society believing in non-elitism and non-materialism would first and foremost remove the first sign of elitism, which is irrational and obscene occupancy of scarce resources especially land, which in the case of Auroville should mean the complete redistribution of land.

There are more negative signs that I have encountered, but those need further exploration, so let me reserve them for another day — by then, the dogs will be friends, and the snakes will take over in not so very polite manner.

Comment dt. 20.06.2014

Well, whatever this experiment practically is, at least in theory it is good except for a tilt towards “Hindutva”, so I am not writing anything negative anymore because I have a bias in favor of this experiment. Above, I didn’t discuss the Global Recession as one of the reasons for the money-mindedness of the Aurovillians, but it seems that might be one of the big reason for this money-mindedness. It seems their European grants, as well as exports, have shrunk, and, therefore, now they are trying to fund their experiment themselves, which might have made at least some of them money-minded, which is an external challenge to the experiment. I can say with a certain degree of authority that cost cutting is always a better way to tackle recession, local or global — Integral Yoga should incorporate that flexibility. About dogs, the man like dogs because it can tame them to its benefit, but, with the advent of incredible technology, privileged men can now tame less privileged men by infringing their privacy fully and finally — there is a clear vibe on the internet that intrusive brain reading is possible, I have researched a bit and am convinced about its veracity, please visit my blog, The Danger of Brain Research. The dogs will then loose preference to the less privileged men, but I only hope that the less privileged men may not spread rabies thereafter.

Comment dt. 24.06.2014

The Positives

1. Matrimandir Meditation Chamber: I don’t do meditation. Actually, I don’t understand what they mean by mediation, and how it should be done. Some people say the meditation is when the random thoughts cease, and the mind becomes relaxed and free. I attended the mediation session on two occasions. The first time I had not slept properly, therefore I went to sleep, and when I woke up, I felt refreshed. The second time I had slept well and was wide awake, therefore, I started experimenting and found that the sunlight in the chamber falls on a ball in such a manner that if you close your eyes you see an image of a flying bird; however, the more interesting is what you see below the bird; I opened and closed my eyes 4-5 times, and each time I saw some different religious symbol, and then I observed the ball carefully and thought in my mind that I am an atheist, and then I saw only a flying bird with a blank block below it. Relaxed, I definitely was, but random thoughts never ceased; whatever that means.

2. Flora: This place has been built on a barren land, and what they have done to the place is amazing. The flora is omnipresent and extremely soothing. I rode bicycle on the cycle paths, which run through the forests and are surrounded by trees and plants all around. The temperature in Auroville is similar to that of Delhi, and riding a bicycle in Delhi at this time would be unthinkable, but there it was pleasant. Regrets that I couldn’t explore fauna mainly because I was scared and unprepared.

3. Attire: The standard attire of the people there is shorts and t-shirts. Most of them are healthy and fit, and, therefore, the clothes they wear look good on them, whether young or old. Moreover, I think the attire also match up with their attitude, which is informal and laid-back.

4. Attitude: The attitude is definitely laid-back. People are mostly not in a hurry, and it is evident that the decisions are taken after lots of deliberation, and, from whatever I saw, the things work pretty fine and easy. There are a few streetlights, and the people themselves don’t venture out at night. They, as a matter of course, separate solid waste from other waste. Doors are not locked at night because nobody steals. There are no police vans and police posts; the six-seven guards manage everything, who are always very helpful. The rules are always followed. If there is a note on a water cooler asking people not to fill water bottles, nobody does it — I did it.

5. Creativity: The most interesting thing about the place is the caliber of the people living there. Many of them are capable of being highly paid executives or administrators but have chosen a mellowed lifestyle. However, their expertise gets manifested in the kind of research and work that is being carried out there. Renewable energy is a definite area of focus, and the projects under contemplation include things like a graded lake system fed by desalinated sea water to be used for beautification of Matrimandir, for an alternate water supply system and for electricity generation; a full-fledged e-transportation with complete ban on petrol/diesel vehicles within the city; a self-sustaining electricity generation at the community level without any linkage with the national grid, etc.

There are more positives, but I have not been able to explore them much because I was overwhelmed by the people’s romanticism towards the place and wanted to explore the negatives to maintain the balance. But, in hindsight, it seems a neutral approach would have been better. Anyways, it’s never too late to explore.

Comment dt. 06.07.2014
Above, I have mentioned that the Aurovilian experiment has a tilt towards “Hindutva.” I think that would not be legally correct. The SC has restricted “Hindutva” to the philosophy propounded by Savarkar and separated it from Hindu Nationalism, which is certainly based on the Hindu religion especially Vedanta, but not “Hindutva.” Following that, neither the Aurovillian experiment can be said to be having a tilt towards “Hindutva” nor Aurobindo’s philosophy can be called “Hindutva” philosophy, even when it is strongly influenced by Vedanta in specific and the Hindu religion in general– just for record, I am a pro-science atheist non-believer, and the faith propounded in Vedanta doesn’t appeal to me. Also, I didn’t find any visible influence of RSS/BJP in Auroville, which is a strong positive.

©2014 Ankur Mutreja

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Ankur Mutreja is an advocate-cum-writer, and his blogs are amongst his modes of expression. He has also authored six books: "Kerala Hugged"; "Light: Philosophy"; "Flare: Opinions"; "Sparks: Satire and Reviews"; "Writings @ Ankur Mutreja"; and "Nine Poems"; which can be downloaded free from the links on the top menu.

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