To begin with this day was special for me because it was my birthday. So, to step outside the projects and the syllabus I was congratulated by all my Swedish colleagues fifteen minutes to seven in the morning. I was given a coffee and a cake to start the day with which was great. The price of having a birthday was to miss out on yoga – a loss well worth it.
First place to visit in the morning was Pour Tous. This is a cooperative where all the members pay fees to be able to purchase food from the store. The store has been open for seven years and so far it’s working well. Instead of having a big selection to choose from the concept is built upon a few products where ecology, collaboration and fair-trade are in focus. It was a special feeling walking around in the store where prices were hidden. Only the store management and the economy department know how much all the members were spending. This leads to higher awareness when buying commodities. There are three levels of membership (payments) depending on the needs and the size of the family, they are: small, medium and large. As the focus is on needs instead of spontaneous spending the long-term aim is reached.
The second visit for the day was at Yatra cultural center. The foundation was created in 2005 to promote aesthetic feelings and expressions among children. Many of the classes that the children take are in drama, music, singing, dancing, drawing, painting and theatre. Yatra focus on two main areas when engaging, the first is to sustain the cultural traditions that India, Auroville and the surrounding villages are built on. The second objective is to promote areas of expression that public and private schools ignore. According to Yatra cultural center the school system in India is rigid and not that flexible when it comes to aesthetic subjects.
Yatra cultural center also works with video production and edutainment. Some of the edutainment movies that they produce address solar-cells and recycling of trash. One ingredient that is important is humor; this is the method used to get the potential consumer attached to the issue. The movies shown were funny yet serious at the same time so entertainment and education were combined effectively. Yatra cultural center argues that there are several real cases where social change has been achieved.
The third place we visited was the Dental center. The manager Jacque showed us the clinique and introduced us to the project ADCERRA. This project aims to give 1 billion people in India better dental health-care. This project was started in Auroville and is unique in the sense that it focuses on easy and natural ways of filling and preventive dental care. The main concept is about reaching the rural areas where most people in need live. There’s one main center and ten sub-centers where nurses are taught how to apply dental care in the spirits of the project. The project prefers to train women as they are considered “mothers” in the Indian context. The image of the “mother” in India is respected and revered, thus enabling access to dental health-care.
The fourth project to visit was Naturellement. This organization empowers women through employment. Due to poverty in India many men suffer from alcoholism that affects the whole family. In many cases women are left alone sustaining the household. The organization thus works by promotion a happy and joyful working climate where women can ventilate their problems. So far the organization has succeeded in this area. There is a café-part where people can eat and have a Swedish cinnamon-role. They also produce marmalade, jam or syrup for the Indian market. Issues such as health care and education are commonly discussed. One objective is to make Indians aware of what they are eating and thus promote a healthier lifestyle.
The evening then turned out to be the best birthday ever. We all played a Christmas gift-game where we shared presents that we bought for each other. I ate some cake but also had it smeared in my forehead Hindu-style in the face!
Carl Larsson, Linnaeus University, Sweden