Eco-tainment: Open Air Cinema in Sadhana Forest

by Deborah First-Quao

Today started like all other days except the 3am temple music. Barking dogs, alarm clocks, shuffling feet, and blazing sun you can’t keep out of the blinds. I had started on my website for the PSDF (People’s Social Development Foundation), an NGO in Pondicherry which aimed at improving the socio-economic welfare of the Dhalit community and fought for their basic human rights as well. By the afternoon I was already putting together a slideshow of the cyclone’s damage to Dhalit villages which could be used as an appeal for donations for their cyclone relief fund.

After a simple lunch of ratatouille and rice accompanied with a glass of lemonade at Town Hall, I rode my pedal bike over to Visitor’s Center for a huge glass of strawberry, vanilla, and coffee crunch ice cream. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get better, at 2:19pm I received the following text:

“Sadhana Forest! Tonight! Cool Deep eco space. Two departure times: 4pm for visit, meal, movie. 6pm for movie and meal. Aurorville Bus departs from Solar Kitchen. 200 rupee donation.”

There was no way I was going to get the the 4h30 bus by the time I had finished talking to my roommate Sorana about her amazing experience volunteering with an NGO called Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica, building a room in a church. At 6 0 clock I was on the bus, my mind filled with images of tree houses, huts and gypsies. After a 20 minute bus ride from Solar Kitchen we arrived. Sadhana Forest was pretty at night. All the houses were big open bamboo huts. They were all welcoming, but a bit troubling to me because they didn’t seem like one could get any privacy in them.

The first thing on the programme was the film. The title was BORN FREE, a true story of a British couple, Joy and George Adamson. In the beginning, George, is sent on an assignment to hunt down a man-eating lion in the Baran region of Uganda. While searching they are unexpectedly attacked by the lioness of the maneating lion. In their surprise they shoot her, realizing later that she had only attacked them to protect her sleeping cubs. In his guilt, George takes the 3 cubs home to his wife and they end up raising the cubs. Plans are eventually made to send them to the zoo. Troubled by his wife’s attachment to Elsa, the smallest, most curious and most playful cub, George decides she would be the perfect companion for his barren wife.

After raising Elsa for until adulthood things inevitably start to wrong as Elsa realizes life outside the household and nature’s urges steer her to realize her true calling. George and Joy are then faced with a difficult decision: to send Elsa to the zoo, where will live out her days in a cage but the receive the care she is used to, or to attempt to teach Elsa how to fend for herself in the wild where she can live free, but face the agony not knowing whether she was well equipped enough to survive.

The movie in many ways paralleled the purpose of the creation of Sadhana Forest and their efforts at reviving the forest. Sadhana Forest was initiallyh created in 2003 as an initiative to revive severely eroded land on the outskirts of Auroville and recreate and indigenous Dry Evergreen Forest.

The movie in many ways paralleled the purpose of the creation of Sadhana Forest and their efforts at reviving the forest. Sadhana Forest was initiallyh created in 2003 as an initiative to revive severely eroded land on the outskirts of Auroville and recreate and indigenous Dry Evergreen Forest.

The dilemma raised in the movie is a question I walked away with as the bus pulled away from the hippy go green community. Can what man has interfered with ever be restored to its original state? Apparantly the inhabitants of Sadhana Forest have often had to learn the hard way, standing by as indigenous trees have died in front of their eyes, not being able to survive the climate and competition with other species. What then, is the solution?

For the 1000 or so residents of Sadhana is in living our lives in accordance with nature. Everything they do reflects this principle including building eco-friendly homes from bamboo, using compost toilets, minimizing waste of water (only 50 litres of water per person is used a day), eating vegan cuisine, and using ash and vinegar to clean dirty utensils, all in an effort to minimize harm to the environment. Can this lifestyle catch on, as like in Auroville, people get tired of their mundane lives and seek a different lifestyle in the Forest of Sadhana? Can humanity move from following the trendy bio lifestyle to leading lives that function in accordance with the biology of the Earth?

This is a question for serious meditation, and I look forward to doing just that at the much publicized night of Tibetan Meditation taking place at at the Tibetan Pavilion on the day of the full moon. Perhaps, if I am lucky, I may I may get an audience with the famous Man in the moon.

One thought on “Eco-tainment: Open Air Cinema in Sadhana Forest

  1. Dear Deborah,

    Thank you for all the wonderful things you have said about Sadhana Forest and all the thought provoking questions!

    I hope you were able to get some comfort or realizations during your meditation at the Tibetan Pavilion!

    Warmly,

    Aviram

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