Auroville, I’m Speechless (almost)

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Sometimes I wish, and I’m certain a lot of people are with me on this one, that all nationalities, genders, religions etc. etc. could all live together in harmony as equals. Especially if in that society jobs are shared fairly and there’s some sort of sense of community and care between everyone. And so, on paper Auroville (named after Aurobindo…) sounds like a bit of a dream to be honest. A community which aims to fulfill all of the above. But there’s just one problem. One giant golden ball shaped problem…

The chaps that brought us the ashram in Pondicherry and set up this ‘utopia’ may have had their croissants spiked with something, because they seem to think that as part of achieving this dream, there must be a HUGE hollow ball made of real gold (called the ‘Matra Mandir’) for people to meditate within. Inside there is a huge crystal in the centre that’s supposed to reflect light and induce spiritual experiences whilst everyone sits in enforced silence and wonders why the hell anyone who wanted to make a society of equals would think that this was a good idea. But don’t worry, I hear there’s plans to make a moat around the thing, so it can only be approached from bridges from the outside. Thank goodness, I thought the credibility and proper functioning of the Matra Mandir would have been compromised without a moat surrounding it.

Now it may sound like I am making all of this up, and I kind of wish I was, because I find it very depressing that the nearest we can get to a society with ideals that many of us desire, is this ridiculous farce of a place. Where instead of efforts being expended upon creating a society that works and the philanthropic activity that apparently goes on, god only knows how much money is being spent on giant gold balls with crystals inside them. Not to mention the rumour that fees to become a member of this utopia are stacked so high that only the elite can afford to join. You might wonder where all the money goes, until you pay a visit to the golden ball…No matter how good the ideals behind the society are, it is completely overshadowed by the reality of Auroville, for which the only explanation I can find is that it is all a big publicity stunt or everyone here is insane or deluded.

Evidence for deludeness can be found in the on site gift shop (yes there is a gift shop, right opposite the cinema where people are brainwashed) they were trying to sell clothes of average quality for about 500% more than any, much better designed clothes I have seen throughout the rest of India. I’m not quite sure who these Aurovillian tailors think they are, but they certainly aren’t Donatella Versace. And this gives you a sense of the vanity project, on full display throughout Auroville. Throw in a few polished exhibitions with freaky life models of the city structure and some breathy, echoing voice overs and a montage of stars and galaxies on the documentary and you have a spiritual Disneyland of weirdness.

Maybe if they’d shown some kind of footage of people who lived there and what life was like, rather than all of this breathy-spiritual-golden-balled-gift-shop-nonsense then they could convince someone that this place wasn’t a joke, but something to be taken seriously, and in my opinion the place gives a bad reputation to an ideal I deeply agree with – and it seems to me like people come for a bit of a laugh rather than a glimpse into a utopian society. It is all scarily reminiscent of stories you hear of the tourist excursions into North Korea, where you are carefully exposed and escorted around a ghost village and watch shallow displays of propaganda, wondering what goes on behind the scenes and what kind of lives the people really lead. Maybe they have a gift shop there too…

I’ll hop right back on that tourist golf caddy, zoom past the many signs designating areas for peace (because of course, people are incapable of finding them themselves) and get myself right back to Pondicherry and hope that this was all a bad dream. Oh Auroville. Oh humanity.

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