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.
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.