I left Bangalore on the Inter-State Transport bus to the pretty port city of Pondicherry (an ex-French colony that has retained its splendor and friendliness), located on the East Cost of South India, equipped with a back pack containing minimal clothing, a tripod and a video camera. From here I hitchhiked to the outskirts and reached my destination: Auroville – a one-of a kind living experiment spread over 20 square kilometres.
The countless international community dwellings located here consist of buildings made up of eco-friendly materials from local sources available in plenty. Sustainable living is taken very seriously here. All food is locally farmed and sourced using techniques that have evolved in the areas of permaculture and organic farming. The sprawling woods have become a natural habitat to rare species of birds,insects, foxes and the mongoose. There is a strong vibe of physical well-being as well as spiritual serenity for people of all ages. Scientific research, philosophical discussions, performance art , creativity and visual arts are most encouraged.
I lived in a house on four stilts named ‘Tibetan’. Right outside my door was a nest of a weaver bird with a newly hatched fledgling that I once peered at when the mom was away. Getting in and out required extreme care not to bump into the nest.
My mode of transport around here was a bicycle. It was great cycling about, except the one time when I skid and crashed onto a bed of cactus thorns. Other options included hiring a really cool looking solar powered scooter from the Reve Community. Electric Charging points were located everywhere around the outskirts.
The sunshine here is perennial and it’s use is ubiquitous. For lunch and dinner, I cycled to the Solar Kitchen – equipped with this super-large solar dome, and a white hot central filament that blew my daylights out. With hot tasty vegetarian food and coffees, and a neat little cyber centre with solar powered internet consoles, the Solar Kitchen and the Terrace Cafe was a great place to socialize.
When I was reeling with inspiration in the heat, I usually always headed to the Solar cooled Ice Cream parlor!
I visited the amazing Sadhana Forest community that started off 5 years ago, as a reforestation project on a large piece of barren land, previously declared unfit for cultivation by the government. Today, as a fully sustainable housing community in the wild, recycling their waste and relying completely on rain harvested undergound water and solar power, it has had it’s top soil enriched by organic compost, and the wild animals have returned to coexist with their human counterparts. When the ‘batteries’ run low, everyone takes turns on the cycle dynamo to recharge power supply! Truly inspiring! Anyone is invited to live for FREE here if you help around with a few chores.
Here I watched this very moving film called ‘TAPPED’ about ”The Bottled Water Industry” in their fully solar powered Eco FILM Club projection system with theatre surround. http://sadhanaforest.org/wp/category/projects/eco-film-club/
Solar powered Internet Wi Fi and everybody loves to SKYPE on the super large projector screen!
I carried my equipment everywhere, not knowing who or what I might see next.
I met Lucas from the Centre for Scientific Research here, who guided me through the entire process of using EM (Efficient Microorganisms) for varied uses such as making compost, breaking down noxious industrial effluents as well as treating sewage water . I filmed in a community that has installed a micro-organism based waste treatment system where the the impure water finds it’s way through a layer of micro-organism based filters, to a curated lotus pond from where the water is re-used to irrigate the lush gardens in the community.
I interviewed Lorenzo (originally from Bologna, Italy, now settled here for the last 30 years) as an immunologist and researcher at the Food Lab. He shared his pearls of wisdom on a range of topics from the effect of processed food on the body and immunity to the role of mirco organisms and viruses in the ecological balance of life.
After more than a week of healthy living in the sustainable community, I feel refreshed and reborn.
The Auroville experience is an example to share with the world . The necessary change in lifestyle is totally possible if we all actually tried. Life would infact become a lot more comfortable and fun!
Back in Bangalore (which fortunately still has the best weather in India or perhaps even Asia), I find it ironic, that what once used to be called the Garden City of India has turned into a fast lane of stellar corporations, night clubs, sedans and new roads at the cost of felling trees.