|Subject: Bringing you the world, part two
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 01:45:53 -0800 (PST)
How's that for a dramatic break...
So that poor elephant, the croud control gates and the annoying ashram management sent me here? Not quite. THe real problem had been foreordained. You see there's Auroville.
I spent ten days in Auroville. Now most of you are aware that I claim to be a hippie. Most of you are also aware that I intend to design a community. Well the last bastion of Hippie Idealism left in this cruel cold world is Auroville. And were it not situated in India this highly dysfunctional paradox would have crumbled long ago. As it stands, India loves and nurtures dysfunctional paradoxes. So the township of Auroville continues to thrive against all odds.
Auroville was started in 1968 by devotees of "The Mother" Who was the wife of Sri Aurobindo, and hero of the Indian Independance movement. She was a french national who settled here and attained some level of enlightenment along with Sri Aurobindo. Anyway, take every hippie euphamism you've ever heard and it probably was said first by the Mother. "Auroville belongs to nobody, Auroville is the world's," "A place free from the tyranny of money," "A spiritual anarchy," "living at one with eachother and with nature," etcetc. None of this would be worth mentioning except she was saying this in 1940. So she's a forerunner of the hippie commune movement. Well, she left her body in 1973 and has continued to be the sole authority on Auroville's management ever since. Management beyond the grave is not uncommon to India, which probably explains a thing or two about this country. And in the case of Auroville, it is actually impossible to manifest a more dysfunctional organizational structure. Nor is it possible for there to be a wider rift between concept and reality. Nevertheless, Auroville is a pleasant bastion of Western New Age culture in southern India, and, actually, nobody is in charge. For real. There are many organizational bodies, but none have any authority. It's the most insane Bureaucracy in the world. Everyone has to get guest cards when they arrive and pay 50 rupees a day tax to Auroville. There's a six month to 2 1/2 year process to attain membership to Auroville become and Aurovillian. At that point you're set for life. You must work at a job of any sort imagineable, perhaps on some dubious committee, but you don't pay for room or board. You can even apply for "maintanence" of 3000 rupees a month. Plus you get to live in one of 80 ish communities (sub-communities?) which each function as a semi-autonomous unit. The whole institution of Auroville is funded largely by donations from several of its more wealthy members, as well as by donations from several of the "commercial units" operating in the township which produce things like food and incense and tourist trinkets, and the rest of the operating expenses come from grants from around the world as well as the Government of India...
I could go on for hours, and in fact, those unfortunate souls whom I will see in the States this fall will get to hear all about it at great length... It's really one of the highlights of a Hippie's pilgrimage to India. Plus there is some of the most strikingly beautiful architecture in the world there, more curves than a runway model. Contrast with the thatched huts of the villiagers surrounding the community. There are 2000 Aurovillians and they employ 6000 local workers. Here's where the inner marxist in me gets pissed. The Aurovillians tend towards a supervisory or administrative role, while most of the manual labour is performed my the locals. That includes launderers and cooks and factory workers and groundskeepers and gardeners and farmers and construction workers... anything that requires a strong back... Night watchmen too. There is a class rift so huge its painful. It took me three days to calm down when I noticed that all the actual labor was being done by the natives, whilst we foriegners managed operations. I proceeded to ask difficult questions like, "why aren't the laborours Aurovillians?" the whole time I was there. But its not a simple discussion, and I'll go into this more at length with those who are interested. Let's just say as a southerner, it raised some really painful cultural memories.
But on a cheerier note, They do have the only REAL coffee you'll find this side of San Francisco. So bitter it hurts and fresh ground. This is the real reason I stayed ten days. Never mind the 1200 solar panels and Epcot-centeresque Matrimandir (main temple).
Prior to Auroville I was in Mahamallahpuram, an overrated tourist resort with 800AD rock carvings and a shore temple. But they had decent coffee there, too. Prior to that was Alandi. I spent a week there, the only westerner in sight, without a soul who spoke english. A real indian pilgrim's center and nothing more. A wonderful town. Everyone goes around touching everyone else's feet as a sign of humility. You get into these games of trying to keep other people from touching your feet while you try to touch theirs. At first it seems silly, but it can be quite fun.
Then there's Ellora. Ellora has the most perfect building in the world. It's all one stone. Carved out of a mountain...something like 60 feet down in the back; and elaborately carved inside and out, flanked by carved out caves on either side. It's a shiva temple. The lingam is actually the same stone as the temple... no seam. It's really unbelievable. I still sigh to think of it. Sure there are bigger temples in India, but this one is going to be in my heart as the one I'll never be able to top no matter how cool I become as an Architect. It's all one stone. Think about that. What if you're house was all one piece. Now that's spiritual unity.
And before that a Stupa from 200 B.C. in Sanchi, and before that some incredibly ornate temples in Khajuraho which are really only museum pieces these days. THey've got sculptures of people having sex on them hee hee. But the Konark temple's the really amazing one. There the entire Kama sutra is depicted. All 64 positions they knew about in 1200AD as well as the 13 embraces and etc. Lots of scenes requiring the assistance of handmaids.
Well that about covers it.
Yes I'm doing fine, no I haven't had a normal bowel movement in months, but otherwise I'm in good health. I've started on Ayervedic medicine, having grown tired of Antibiotics. I'll be a pharmacist by the end of this trip when it comes to diarreah. You'd be surprised how many pills there are for that one.
Happy? Nah, not really. It's awefull lonely out here. I can't seem to find anyone I can stand travelling with. This is becomming chronic in fact. How many years have I been travelling alone? Oh well. I read Kerouak and identify too well. didn't he die young and bitter? I thank god for finding God.
Keep the emails comming; it's fun to have people to talk to... that is when I'm in email country. You can get pretty far from civilization in India without really realizing it. I'm trying to respond to all the messages I get, but this takes time as you know, and time is money. But what is money? Enough of this madness. I love you all!