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Auroville Village Action Group

Destination: Auroville

 

 

August 2007

 

 

Once a month, on Monday afternoon, there’s a lively meeting at the AVAG office, when the Executives and Coordinators of Auroville Village Action Trust’s seven units come to share with each other reports on their activities.
As this is sometimes the only time they meet, it is an opportunity to discover areas for collaboration, ask for advice with a thorny problem, and generally get a feeling for the larger work going on.

At a recent meeting reports revealed that three of the units had chosen to take their staff on a “Tour of Auroville” instead of an excursion to some nearby city or tourist attraction.
The reports were full of a sense of success and satisfaction: the employees (mostly from the local villages) were amazed and impressed. Many had never seen anything of Auroville except their workplace, and they were astounded at the extent of sites and activities, and especially at the ideals that were motivating Aurovilians to leave their homes and come to a foreign land. Here are some observations from the report of Karin of Auroville Industrial School and Lively Boutique :

 

We started at 9 AM at Water Harvest in Kottakarai, where we learned an amazing lot about the water situation of this region, but also about the situation for whole South India. They explained about the history of the 1400 rainwater catchment ponds (called “tanks”) which were built by the Pallava kings around 1400 years ago. These tanks, connected to each other by channels, collected all the rainwater, and provided the whole region with the possiblity of irrigating three harvests per year. They did not draw on the underground water -- that came only with the borewell technology. These deep wells, with their big pumps and unlimited electrical supply, are pulling up too much of the groundwater, resulting in saline intrusion along the coast. We learned that not only that aspect of the Green Revolution, but also the pollution due to pesticides, is contaminating the groundwater.

The second stop in Discipline Farm provided us not only with tea and cake, but also lots of information about how organic farming is responding to the problems we’d just learned about and others. Everybody was touched to see the little open temple under the huge banyan tree, which belongs to the Alankuppam village temple, but is maintained in the middle of the Auroville farm.

The Earth Institute located at the Centre for Scientific Research (CSR) showed us a very interesting video about the compressed earth building bricks they have developed and its architectural possibilities, and then at AuroRE we got information about solar energy. Our staff of teachers felt that the whole programme would be very interesting for their students at the Auroville Industrial School.

At 12.30 we arrived at the Visitors Centre where we had a tasty lunch and sat under a big tree in the shade and shared our impressions so far.

Everyone was deeply impressed by the Auroville video “Dream of the Divine” which they had just seen, in Tamil language, as well as the Matrimandir video.

This rest gave us strength to move on to the Botanical Gardens where our men took great interest in the keet huts that were being built for volunteers – they wanted to know everything about it.

Then to the Town Hall, where the ice cream at Cafe Morgan was very refreshing so we could proceed to the Matrimandir for our last appointment for the day. They were taken on an “information tour” and they were not only impressed, they felt that this place is something very special and important for Auroville. At the end, everyone gave his/her name for an appointment for the following Tuesday to go into the Inner Chamber. And on that Tuesday, after coming out of the meditation chamber and discussing a bit, the over all experience seemed extraordinary. Two of the teachers have started to go for meditation regularly at Matrimandir.

The WELL paper team arranged a similar trip for the women who have been trained by them in basketry, but with more of an emphasis on visiting the retail outlets at the Visitors Centre.


And Thamarai has written a very nice report with photos, about their tour.
To quote some of the WELL women: “Most of us have lived so long in the neighbouring villages, but had not visited anything, others had visited as children but didn’t know anything about the place. Now we realise Auroville has a higher vision and aim and is not just a visiting place.” “When Auroville was decided for the field trip, we thought What is there to see? But now we realise that time was not enough, and we want to know more.”

Tours of Auroville are not a new idea, the Village Action Group arranged extensive tours as part of training for its teams, but it is an activity that obviously does not grow old or outlive its impact. Auroville is a treasure, both in its vision and its manifestation, seemingly hidden by its very accessibility. When our neighbours actually are introduced to it, they are touched and understanding, and the more we take the trouble to share it with the people around the better we’ll all get along.

 

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