Sunday January 3rd, 2016 was an unforgettable day, like most days throughout this experience, but on this particular Sunday we weren’t students, we had the opportunity to be true tourist. This was our second excursion outside of Auroville and it was not a trip to be missed, plus for lunch we were given the most amazingly flavourful egg salad sandwich which felt like a reward after the climb. This time around we found ourselves at Gingee Fort, collectively the unspoken goal was to make it to the top of the mountain to capture a bunch of photos which could later be used as Facebook profiles, Instagram post, and a host of other social media contributions. Commencing our climb it was immediately apparent to the group the climb would not be as easy as previously discussed. There was minimal shade and the angle of the rocks and steps were positioned at incredibly steep angle that it appeared unnatural for a climb, but as I looked ahead of me in the direction of the group already attempting the climb, I blurted out “if they can make he climb in sari’s and sandals we can do it in sneakers and sweats”, and I was right. The entire group successfully made the climb. Making the climb down the mountain made me more aware that our group was the only group equipped with sneakers or climbing shoes. Everyone else wore sandals and some were even barefoot. This was truly amazing. This awareness triggered a connection to our greater presence here in India, that of development. Taking a glimpse down at my colourful blue and pink Nike’s, you could assume that I was well prepared for the climb. Nike’s are advertised to make you run faster, go further, climb higher, and transform you into a athletic master, but my masterful shoes failed me, I tripped during my descent. The rubber sole that served the purpose of gripping to the surface did not work and I landed on my bum. The Nike’s were not as masterful, as portrayed and widely accepted to be, but the sandals the ladies in front of us wore did not fail them.
For me this scenario forces us to evaluate the measurements of development. Are we using the Nike Standard, that advertises it’s shiny more equipped and superior characteristics, or by that of the proven capable sandals that are not so shiny but capable and equipped to make the climb. As we near the end of the trip I believe our presence here is to critically critique the phenomena that emerged in the 1960’s as sustainable development. How does development take into account culture, religion, and society? Is our presence problematic or are we successful in our goals? And how do we decide what success is? There are many questions and at times very few answers. Within in this current moment I am not sure how to receive the idea of development. My current state is evaluating those who are initiating the development and those who are being “developed”, who’s need is it to develop?