Sadhana Forest in Auroville

10 February 2005

The real Auroville is very much hidden. To be honest, I encountered some really snobby isolationist behavior, even in the bakery. I'm from New York, but this was really bad. Many of them don't want to live with all the tourist traffic, and there is a definite quiet battle going on between people running the guesthouses and people with their private houses tucked back on the trails. The guest houses make private money and strain the city resources. Some people have this attitude that they have escaped the world and found their paradise, so they aren't too willing to talk.

Then there's Aviram, Yorit and Osher out on Sadhana Forest. They are outside of Auroville some 20 minutes by motorcycle, living on a lunar landscape that is slowly turning into an edible forest. Aviram had been the CEO of a medical equipment company until he decided to quit, sell and move the family to this plot of land in southern India. They eat pure vegan, use no chemicals, no caffeine and don't even use cow urine for fertilizing.

They have more in common with the earliest settlers of Auroville, in that the trees are still short, the sun is strong, and they have no infrastructure. Specifically, they had no toilet while I was there, and the strange red earth is surprisingly hard to dig through at 5 am. The houses were still being built up on metal trucks floating in Neem oil to keep the bugs down. Believe it or not, I think he's got DSL now.

We got up and ate at 6am (too early to eat I think), and worked till 11am or so when it gets too hot. A week went by really quickly, much of the days being sucked up with driving around on scooters. The conversations there were good. The food was really good.

They seem to have a lot closer relationship with Tamils. One local born guy who was living there was just finishing his Masters in sociology or history or something. I asked him what he would do then with the degree. "Oh, work on the farm." I'm not sure why really, though Aviram has given up his corporate jet-setting to work on his farm. He is aware that its his privilege to have chosen this, and that it isn't a sustainable lifestyle, but he's gone about as earthy as its possible to get. The Tamil guy, I don't know, I have this thought that he should do something with a degree. He probably will, he just didn't see it yet.

The rest of the Tamils working on the land there were older guys who could do amazing things with little grass knives that idiots like me took hours to figure out. And they built tall A-frame 2 story houses out of trees and rope. They didn't speak English, but occasionally spoke Tamil at me, just in case. That didn't work.

Unfortunately you can hear the road a mile or two away, with crazed drunken truck drivers screeching away all night. The night sky was stunning, the land is stunning, the trees are stunning.

All night long I could hear intense amplified drumming from some village temple. In the peak hours of the morning the beats get more off kilter and syncopated, like DJs pulling out their strangest, most psychic records, in the deep hours of the morning when absolutely anything goes. They didn't stop till 5am. Right here, in these woods, that party has been going on for 4000 or maybe 20,000 years.

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