Monday, December 21, 2009

A Surprising New Development

For the second time in a month we find ourselves in an international community guided by a charismatic “Mother” figure. Instead of the Hugging Mother Ashram's spiritual focus, Auroville is an experiment in utopianism: an international community of 2,000 residents from over 40 countries striving to overcome boundaries of nationality, color, and background and realize their common interconnected humanity in a money-less, class-less, property-less, and cooperative “universal township.” Residents and other Indian citizens are split on the project's success and merits, and of late, economic strain within Auroville has disqualified those without independent resources from becoming members of the community.

Because Auroville is spread out over many miles of Tamil Nadu countryside—it's located in a rural area about 150 km south of Chennai—the only reasonable way to get around is by motor scooter. We arranged to rent one through our guesthouse for two dollars a day including fuel, with the strict instructions to not under any circumstances leave Auroville's premises. Thanks to Jeremy's persistent questioning, we later learned that although the rental was illegal we would not be at risk with the local authorities. Fortunately, within the vicinity, the empty dirt roads lend themselves to learning and the tree-lined streets make for picturesque cruising. At least when it is not raining.

After several hours of exploring the “township,” getting lost in the densely forested neighborhoods of Miracle, Silence, and Certitude, chatting with and eavesdropping on loquacious Aurovillians in places like Dreamer's Cafe and the Solar Kitchen, we scheduled a three-hour guided shamanic journey for Ali with Divya, who lives in Revelation. As we were driving over to a short introductory seminar on the concept of Auroville, however, the skies opened and we received a proper drenching. We were forced to skip the seminar and battle the monsoon rains on the half hour scoot back to our guesthouse, where the cheerful receptionist informed us that our laundry (all our clothes except the ones we were wearing) had been caught in the rain and wouldn't be dry until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest. Luckily, we have a sweet little cabin in the rainforest and several dry blankets in which to huddle.

From this spot of comfort we reflected on the fact that we have been traveling for nearly three months and have a little more than four to go. Besides the often comedic difficulties of adapting to different cultural norms (putting toilet paper in buckets, more elaborate greeting rituals, the moratorium on public displays of affection), the main effects of the trip so far concern our own personal and mutual growth. It's hard to say what the lasting impact will be, and it probably will remain that way until some time in the distant future, but both of us believe that we are growing wiser and that we are increasingly connected to each other and ourselves. There is also a distinct possibility that Jeremy is getting fatter.

1 comment:

elise said...

Please don't join a cult. Jeremy, you could never get fat. I miss you guys! Christ's mass will be sad without you.