Tag Archives: Auroville

Birds

At Auroville, about 3 times a week I’d visit the center of the community – the beautiful golden dome called Matri Mandir. More than the dome, it was the meditation chambers around the dome, or petals as they call it, that i wanted to isolate myself in. They’re a marvel of art and tech. Unfortunately you won’t know anything about it until you actually visit it. I’m glad they keep it that way. I spent anything between 45 minutes to 2 hours in there every few days, and it was always the best start to my days.

My last day there, while I was walking out, I saw this guy talking to my friend Jonas i wanted to say goodbye to. I couldn’t help but ask this new guy his name – Yoann. His warmth i could feel from a few yards out. I told him i was heading for brunch to one of my favourite joints ‘Bread & Chocolate’, and he said he had some work, but he would drop in after.

This lovely girl Lea, who wanted me to teach a yoga lesson to her batch of yoga students from Paris had promised me lunch at B&C before i left Auro. So i get there with Jonas, who i love but he never stops talking. After he’s gone, Lea and i catch up on her India trip. In walks Yoann. He goes to the counter to place his lunch order and sits, politely, at a different table cos Lea is still talking to me. I’ve got this really strong urge to just hug the guy and I don’t even know why. So I ask Lea if it’s ok i invite my new friend to our table, and she’s totally fine with it.

They start chatting, and me, as always – playing the role of listener/observer/whatever while i shove my majestic banana-date-walnut smoothie down my throat, and then order another one. It’s during the course of their conversation that i get to know more about Yoann. He looked Spanish, he knew great French, but he was from Israel.

‘Don’t see too many Israelis hanging out alone.’

‘Me, i’m just traveling with my girlfriend and 2 guitars. In fact till i met my girlfriend, I’ve always traveled alone.’ Totally my kinda guy.

We talked about music, we connected too much over funk. About his time in Australia and the Philippines, where he gave me directions to the most amazing people living on a remote island fishing and farming and playing ukulele. And of course, we spoke about war.

Born in Paris, he spent 20 years there till he felt a strong urge to go to his homeland. And as is routine there, soon as he got to Israel, he was enrolled in the army.

I noticed the tattoo on his arm.

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I have yet to see a more balanced-in-the-head Israeli. If you heard him talk about the war, it was like he spoke about ice cream flavours. Calm, composed, and his contagious straight-from-the-heart smile never left his face.

‘I have friends who are Arab. When i meet them, there is no hostility or danger, i don’t even feel a little bit threatened. We smoke together, we eat together. I know I’m safe with them. Except on the battlefield. Then there’s no identity except for politician or corporation you’re representing. Nobody realizes it’s the same corporations delivering guns to both sides.’

You can’t expect them to have a bus full of school children shot up, and not react. We’re humans, that kind of ugliness has repercussions’, still smiling.

‘So why did you enroll?’, i enquired.

‘I was naive. I thought it was my purpose. I know better now, much better. No regrets though, none at all cos i made some amazing friends in the army.’

‘What’s the song on your tattoo?’

His smile got twice as beautiful, ‘knockin on heaven’s door’.

My heart sank a bit. I was conflicted between what a clichéd song it was and whether it was the Dylan version he liked or the GnR version. Either way, i did not really like that song too much.

Even if it was the first song I ever learnt on the guitar.

‘What’s the birds for?’

‘Oh these are for my two friends. Same team during war. Such good guys, hearts of gold. I remember this bonfire we had once, a few of us around the fire, and these two sang the most amazing version of the knocking on heaven’s door. And we promised that night right next to the fire that after the war, we’d take a looong holiday, go to India, and smoke a BIIIG FAAAT CHILLUM with the babas, the three of us.’

Just for a second, and only for a second, his smile disappeared, when he said ‘they both died two days later.’

It came right back with ‘so i came to India, and i smoked a massive chillum, and i know they know i kept that promise!’

And i hugged him.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, we were literally inseparable. He bought his guitars and came over to where i lived. I cooked while Maya & Jay from the same guesthouse brought a ukulele and then it never stopped.

Some connections lay perspective to the little issues and worries in our heads that we turn into gigantic blackholes.

Connections are important. Perspective is importanter.

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Auroville’d

Last night’s red earth ‘dance floor’ in the midst of this little forest in Auroville was packed by happy sweaty kids in the 15-80 age group, kicking up a dust storm. Glorious sight. They don’t know Johnny B, but DJ Bijou is a pretty sick DJ i tell ya.

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It was hot, but nobody wanted the music to stop. ONE MORE! They kept screaming at midnight. Then again a few minutes later. Then they convinced the 70 yr old owner of the place to let me play 10 more minutes. Never thought I’d go beyond Pune/Bangalore deadlines here. What was familiar was a query I’ve barely heard recently but keeps reminding me of 1:15 am in Bombay ‘Where’s the afterparty??? Where are you playing now? Can you bring your music to my party instead?’

I gratefully declined all offers to play any afterparty, and went home exhausted to my bed for a full 9 hours of sleep. I’d started the day at 7 am to teach yoga, and ended at 1:30 am as a DJ in a pirate costume. Subconsciously, maybe that was my tribute to the piratebay. Last week I was at Solitude Farms, harvesting tomatoes, papaya, eggplant, basil, radish, bananas and a hundred other kitchen ingredients between 8 am and noon, but fucking hell it’s hot, I cant do that anymore.

I have no idea how time just flew this last month, but 6 gigs, one rescued puppy, yoga lessons, and a few steak visits to Pondicherry later, I think it’s time to head to the hills a little west. If its not cold enough, maybe ill head North.

Before I got here, the memories I had of Auroville are visions of a dry and arid desert terrain, scorched red earth, and plants fighting for water and survival. I was still in school when my dad dragged my ass to the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry and then for a day visit to Auroville, and it’s a far cry from those days now. Now there are forests, gardens, treehouses, huts, eateries, swimming pools, pizza, and snakes too. So far, they’ve kept their distance from me, and the one I found in my shoe, popped out before I slipped my foot in.

For those living under a rug, Auroville’s an international city. More like a village for me, given the 10 pm deadline, but it’s just what I needed. There’s more than 50 nationalities living here, and the population is around 2500 aurovilleans, and a few thousand other visitors, guests and newcomers applying to be Aurovillean. You have to live here for 2 years to be considered an aurovillean, which then comes with privileges like food and shelter, and basic living costs. But that’s way too long term. If you’re coming in for a visit, its possible your weekend plans get extended to a few weeks or months, if you’ve got nothing better to do.

For the budget traveller, there’s permaculture farms you can live in for about 150 a day (Buddha Garden) provided you put in a few hours of work every day on the fields. There are regular backpacker guesthouses like Reve for 300-400 a day. Then there’s the top end place like Afsaneh, at around 3000 a night, you have homes that looks straight out of a new-age home design magazine, and a pool that looks so exquisite, I felt bad to dip my dirty foot into it. And there’s something for every budget in between.

Food joints range from 30 bucks for 2 kerala porotas and chicken curry at Dinesh, to Rs.800 a meal steak-houses. Italian omelette and coffee at Marc’s is addictive, the pizza at Tanto is beautiful. Considering the wide range of nationalities living here, there’s every kind of food available too. Sort of like Goa, but a little more authentic in its hippie-ness. Alcohol is frowned upon, though a visit to Pondicherry will help you bag alcohol at Goa rates. Pondicherry is just about 10 km away, and boasts some of the finest steak joints I’ve ever been to.

There’s gigs every week, Solitude Farms’ Krishna MacKenzie has the title of being the king of gigs in this little town, promising a gig every Thursday night at his farm. Krishna himself is the singer-guitarist of Emergence, having toured US and UK in the last decade. You can volunteer at his farm for a couple of weeks and come out feeling pretty enlightened about growing your own food. Sve-Dame, Well Café, Youth Centre and Yatra are other popular gig venues. Once you get in the know, there’s everything from Salsa nights to Jazz concerts. You can forget about drum n bass and techno though. None of that noisy shit works here. A- there’s no drugs and alcohol, B- there’s not many angry people, C- I already told you about the 10 pm deadline.

In the last month the only downer was an hour of Hibiscus Art Festival during my first week here, when 2 dudes played under the name Midizen, and played the kind of shit techno-indian-fusion that gets those Kasol chillum lovers on their feet, but for the rest it sounds like someone threw us back to 1993, when the flute theme techno remix of Jackie Shroff’s Hero was a hit. That music died in the 90s and should stay dead for everybody’s sake. The rest of that festival was amazing, with crepes, acoustic performances, drum circle, handmade jewellery, and mint juice. I cant believe I said mint juice.

Destiny – last night it was me replacing that bunch of boring DJs, for a set that Auroville won’t be forgetting any time soon. I should come a little closer to the earth now.

 

AAAAAOOOOOMMMMMMMM…