Archive for January 23rd, 2009

Call me Icarus

My brain feels like it’s wrapped in a hot compress.  My eyes are scratchy and I’m drag-your-feet-in-the-dust exhausted, but I don’t feel like I need to sleep.  It’s actually cooler here than I thought it would be; today it’s only 82 degrees.  Like Icarus, I came to Auroville with a strut in my step, thinking “Ha! Looks like I’m not going to get sick.  Looks like starting out here will be a breeze.”  And like Icarus, it seems as if I’ve put too much faith in my wax woven wings.  I should have known that going from freezing Pennsylvania to blustry southern India would take its toll on my body.  Now, don’t go off worrying that I’ve gotten malaria.  A lot of the other young people who have recently arrived are also suffering the side effects of this adjustment. And the four hours of farming I did this morning and yesterday are definitely not helping. I just wanted to preface this post with an explanation, incase my writing is laced with a bit of grumpiness.

I’d said that I shouldn’t come here with any expectations.  Of course I did, though, and now I can’t help but thinking about how Auroville is nothing like I thought it would be.  An English backpacker I met the other day put it perfectly: “This place is nothing like the rest of India.  It’s kind of like a resort, actually.”  My aim for coming here wasn’t to experience India, it was to explore ecovillage living.  (Although experiencing India will be an amazing side benefit).  But I feel like neither is happening yet.

I will love you once you're fixed

I will love you once you're fixed

I’ve been walking everywhere.  The only way to get around this place is by cycle or motorbike, and right now I have neither.  Right when working at the Hub Station Bike Shop last summer would have been a savior for me, there were no tools for me to fix the flat tire that I got after a measley 30 minute ride.  I’ve been waiting for the mechanic at our hostle to change my tube for three days now, trying to abandon my New Yorker demand for the expedient and to embrace India’s slower pace of living.  Here’s the thing though; everyone here knows that it’s a long walk to get anywhere.  That’s why there’s no one but me walking around.  For three days I’ve been trudging along the side of the road.  The clouds of red grainy dust kicked up by Indians ripping by on motorcycles have me running all of the noxious side effects of particulate exposure through my head.  But only one person stopped to offer me a ride.  This is supposed to be a place where people care about each other, but I’m picking up on a seperationist vibe that is rubbing me the wrong way.  I haven’t been here long, so I won’t jump to any conclusions.  Actually, this is waking a healthy curiosity in me.  Why are the Aurovillians so wary of outsiders?  Why don’t they embrace guests with wide open, loving arms?

I went to the information center yesterday to read on the “vision of Auroville,” and that experience really lifted my heart.  There in words was everything I was looking for.  In the past, a group of people came here and turned a heat stroked desert into this tropical paradise.  I the Auroville I see now could rise from the ashes of a wasteland, then maybe there really is hope for humanity’s struggle against climate change, deforestation, and loss of resources.  I just hope that I can find this now in reality, and if I can’t then I have to ask whether Auroville is moving in the direction of true human unity, or if they’re preaching old visions and living a new creed.

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