Posts Tagged ‘ecovillage’

Another Option

(Leaving Auroville, Part One)

Whenever I talk to someone about ecovillages, whether the person is a self-proclaimed environmentalist or not, at some point the conversation involves the other person getting defensive and insisting that my utopian visions will never become a reality. No one’s going to give up their privacy to live in a community. People are stuck in their ways, and they won’t ever change. You can’t just tear down all of the cities and suburbs that already exist and move people out to a bunch of communes in the middle of nowhere… I used to find this incredibly frustrating. I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but I always felt like I was missing an important part of the puzzle, like there was something that I just wasn’t saying.

Yesterday I went to talk to Priya, the British woman who started a twelve acre organic farm called the Buddha Garden. She settled down there after the Aurovillian sub-community she helped to found ended up being less of a community than she thought it would be. Before that, she’d lived in two other communities, one of them also in Auroville. After Priya told me about the problems she’d faced in her past communities, I asked her if she had any advice for people looking to start their own.

“Start with something you’re passionate about,” she said. “Or find a few other people and do something you’re passionate about together.”

That, and working together (everyone at the Buddha Garden works on the farm from 6am-9am and then eats breakfast together) are what she says are key. For a community in the city, she suggested focusing on recycling, but it could be anything.

It was during this conversation, right around when Priya said, “I knew that I wanted to live in a community, you see,” that I found my missing puzzle piece. Ecovillages are not a New World Order, but another option. Think about it- how often do we narrow down our living choices to city, suburb, or rural? Then we either live with our family, alone, or with a few roommates. But do we really need to settle for such a paltry buffet of lifestyles? That’s what ecovillages, or communities, are for me- a chance to eventually live in the way that I choose, instead of opting for one of the few options presented by society and the common paradigm. Priya touched on the beauty of this idea when she said that passion should be at the center of a newly forming community. Our passions are as varied and unique as I hope our lifestyles to someday be. What’s right for me may not be right for someone else. All I’m saying is, why aren’t we asking whether or not city/suburb/rural is really the best recipe? My argument is not for a world made up of ecovillages, but for a world where each person can figure out their own unique needs and then achieve them. And that brings me to part two.

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Finding Your Way

(Leaving Auroville, Part Two)

The three weeks I’ve spent at Auroville are hardly sufficient for me to claim to be an expert on this ‘universal township’.  What I can say, though,  is that Auroville is certainly different than anywhere I’ve ever been to in my life.  It’s complex and nuianced and constantly in flux.  I hope to come back here some day to figure out what really makes this place tick. 

I’m siting at the town hall cafe now, occasionally glancing up at the huge golden golfball called the Matrimandir, only partially visible behind thickly leaved tree branches.  In this moment know that leaving is the right thing to do, but not because I don’t like Auroville or because it wasn’t as much of a community as I thought it would be.  What I’ve learned here is that we each need to find our own way in this world.  We need to do what is right for ourselves before we can ever do anything good for others. 

And so the search for the answers to community living comes to a pause.  But the adventure continues.  I don’t know where I’ll go or what I’ll see, but that’s the beauty of it.  I am an environmentalist– I believe that the natural world influences and affects everything that we do, that we should live our lives in a way that is in balance with the world around us.  So my posts will most likely continue to be environmentally focused.  But just as I don’t know where my feet will take me in the coming months, nor do I know what my fingers will type.  My accesss to the internet will be limited, but I will keep posting, and sharing everything I see and experience (and I hope that you keep reading!).

Until next time.

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High Tech Water Pump


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Solitude is one of the farms in Auroville’s green belt.  Their produce goes to Pour Tous, AV’s grocery store, and they also offer an organic lunch right there at the farm every day.


Solitude grows these red flowers called rosella- they taste like tart raspberries- to make rosella jam, or tea.

Rosella that was laid out in the sun to dry
Rosella that was laid out in the sun to dry

 Besides selling the food that they grow, the people who live at Solitude also offer the organic lunch (which has no set price- you make a donation), and some make clothing to sell to visitors.

They also get help from volunteers who stay in these little huts and work on the farm.  The resident’s houses are much nicer, though still simple.  The one I went in was made out of hardened mud that was painted turquoise, and felt like concrete to the touch.  Beams of dark wood ran through the hardened earth as a shell for support.
volunteer's hut

volunteer's hut

home at solitude, with solar panels in the foreground

home at solitude, with solar panels in the foreground

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I’ve posted some pictures under the new Pictures tab on the right side of this page.  I’ll add more sporadically.  Enjoy!

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Today I got to that point where I could no longer put off washing my clothes.  So I biked ten minutes to the store (yep, it’s fixed!! :D) to get some detergent powder and was well on my way.  At Mitra we have to hand wash our clothes, so I filled the bucket with water, put in (too much) soap, and let it all soak for an hour after some serious swishing and a little bit of scrubbing. 

Rinsing was a bit more of a challenge because of the excess detergent.  I turned on the spiket and drenched each garment in water, my hands slippery from the soap.  Just as I was thinking about how this couldn’t save all that much water compared to a washing machine, Usha came out and yelled at me to use the bucket.  She didn’t exactly yell; Usha, the woman who manages Mitra youth hostle, is like the mother of the place. She can’t be more than thirty, but she has that air of command about her, so that all she has to say is ” Maggie, use the bucket.  Don’t waste water,” and I was scrambling to turn off the hose.  Rinsing the clothes in the bucket meant that it would be impossible for me to get all of the soap off, but so it goes.  Maybe they won’t be too bad once they’re dry. 

Ringing out my pants and shirts was the hardest part, and that wasn’t even all that bad.  Then they all went on the clothes line and that was that.  The one thing necessary for washing clothes in this way is plenty of idle time, but with only four hours of farm work in the early morning(6:15), I have time to spare.  I’ll tell you what though; I will not be washing anything until it’s absolutely necessary, something that might not fly back home, but is perfectly normal here.  It’s something I can certainly get used to.


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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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