Going in search of Auroville


My Punjabi Indian friend, Kamlesh sent me a video on Auroville, which got me interested. Auroville is a community experiment. Then, my Kerala Indian friend Arun, connected me with one of his dear friends, Indian /Canadian hailing from Hyderabad, Ravi Kondikanda, who had given up a six figure salary and a good life in Canada and moved to Auroville. Ravi had got fed up of the rat race, the false world. Then he had traveled to nearly eighty (80 countries), spent one year traveling in India and finally settled down in Auroville, and found peace in there. On Arun’s request, Ravi invited me to come over and experience Auroville. He told me to explore find it out for myself. I heard several stories about Auroville, both positive and negative. Some said it was an artificial village, while others said it was an experience by itself. I told them, "Let me find out".

I kept in touch with Ravi. He gave me all the details and guided me on my journey. He told me "You will be the first Sri Lankan to stay at my home." He didn't want anything from Sri Lanka as gifts. I insisted I will bring the best of Sri Lankan tea, Ravi said to bring a small sample for my happiness. He also told me that it was better for him to book a car from Auroville, since they knew his place.

I flew to Chennai one afternoon. Ravi had sent a car to take me to Auroville. The driver Vijay was a pleasant man who welcomed me to Chennai. We took the road leading to Madurai and Kanyakumari. Auroville is a small village situated before Puducherry (Pondicherry). The journey to Auroville took nearly two and a half hours; that too because Vijay drove fast avoiding the chaos and dangers of the motorway. For a moment, I thought Vijay was falling asleep. I asked him to turn on the radio because I wanted to listen to good Tamil music/songs. He turned to a channel with wonderful music with no commercials at all. He also gave me the assurance that he wasn't falling asleep.

We passed salterns, paddy fields, chena cultivations, a huge Buddhist temple, ‘Coffee Only’ shops, herds of cattle, various cultivations, crazy and, of course, a dangerously driven bus. It was a pleasant journey though the air-conditioning in the car didn't work on a humid afternoon. We had to change to natural cooling resources and the wind was at its best. When we got closer to Auroville, Vijay showed me where he and his family lived. He said he had been a driver for the last 19 years and his brother did the same job, and that Auroville was cooler than Chennai. I told him only the hills would be cooler than Chennai, Colombo, Puducherry or Delhi these days. I think he nodded in agreement.

I was very excited to be in Auroville. It gave me a different feeling when I entered the village/city. There were plenty of trees along the roads. Vijay was right. Auroville was much cooler than Chennai. It looked like a peaceful place. I had come all the way in search of more peace, though I was at peace with myself and others. I was welcomed warmly by Ravi and his best friend, ‘Treaty’ the dog. It sure was home away from home. One could always feel when one is welcomed warmly. Here was a man who had given up his luxuries and come to Auroville in search of inner peace and tranquility. Ravi showed me around and asked me to make myself comfortable. I had nothing to unpack since I had travelled only with my hand luggage. Travelling with just two trousers and two shirts and a sarong itself is freedom. I had nothing to take or bring back. I was happy that Ravi accepted the best of Sri Lankan tea which I had taken against his wishes.

Ravi lives in a place known as Aroma Garden in Auroville, very close to the Auroville experimental community, which was founded by French national Mirra Alfassa in 1968. She was the spiritual companion of Indian poet, guru, philosopher, yogi, nationalist, Sri Aurobindo. Mirra is popularly and respectfully known as Mother here. It is Mirra who made Auroville world famous. Most say ‘Auro’ is for Aurobindo and ‘ville’ is city. However, Aditi Sriram in her book on Pondicherry says that the ‘City of Dawn’ takes its name from ‘aurore’ or dawn in French, and not as it is generally assumed from Sri Aurobindo. But, it all has fallen into one piece. To me, Auroville is a village and not a city.

Having enjoyed the sunset from ‘Ravi’s Universe’ at Aroma Gardens that day, I got an invitation to dinner at the Italian restaurant Tanto, where Indians and Italians work. Tanto is one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever visited. They served the best Masala chicken pizza and ice tea in the world. Though the restaurant had many customers, they were open, friendly and very laid back. Ravi said that was the life in Auroville - very peaceful. My first day in Auroville ended with the African night at the African corner, where people from several countries danced around a fire. It was like dancing inside a jungle in Africa. That dance was about freedom. The night sky and the moon and the stars watched people dance in happiness in Auroville. They ended up holding hands and chanting "Om Shanthi Om." Everyone knew what it meant, after all many had come to Auroville in search of Peace and Happiness.

Next Week: More from Auroville

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