5:45am. En route for a visit of the spectacular Kaliveli Lake. We encountered a roadblock and had to resort to a tight ride-share with Boomi and naturalist guide Shankar to access the wetlands. Flocks of Dalmatian Pelicans, egrets, heron, cormorants, painted ducks, flamingoes, along with dozens of other species make the critical watershed of Kaliveli Lake their winter sanctuary.
It has been three weeks since our arrival in Auroville. To some extent, we were expecting to enter a highly conceptual space, with a meaning that transcends our understanding. It turns out that our lives back home themselves have become more conceptual than ever before. Each in our own way, we have already made up our minds about what Auroville means. Either we hate it or love it, or generally struggle to understand how to evolve in such a system. To me, Auroville has been a complete experience, with many lessons to bring back home, in the hope of making it a better place.
Among the lessons I already wish to bring back with me, the fact that Aurovillians share such a profound mutual respect for each other is the one that struck me the most. As a born-and-raised Parisian, this is more than enough to surprise me, even make me uncomfortable. Quickly though, I realized that this mindset, deeply inspired by The Mother, was the difference that made Auroville so powerfully positive. At this point, never mind the utopia: a place where people truly live in harmony and in peace with each other, without the fear of confrontation or aggressiveness is possible. It may be due to our short time here — maybe after a while Auroville would not seem like such a peaceful, harmonious place after all — but in my case, feeling the positive energy around me incited me to do the same with others. Much more than in Paris, I consider other people with more care. Auroville enhanced my sense of sonder — the sudden realization that people around us have the same vibrant, complex lives as ourselves. Suddenly, I realize that I greet people in a different way, with a positivity and genuine concern for their well-being that I have only rarely experienced before. The lesson here is that my interaction with others has a deep correlation with how people interact around me. Seeing the negativity around Paris takes a toll on my ability to emphasize with others, makes me numb to their feelings or struggles. Auroville, at least in this aspect, shows the true example that human beings should follow. My wish is to bring back this sense of sonder to Paris with me, and make it last as long as possible. Hopefully this change makes me a better person. Someone whose empathy is not driven by self-interest, like the majority of the people I met in France’s capital. If Auroville is considered an open-field experiment, I say it can be considered an experiment of the self as well. The ultimate question that Auroville asks, however, is if such a space can — and should — be allocated solely for the purpose of enlightenment in a third world country. I believe that my classmates have many opinions on that matter, as we discussed this problem at length. In the end, the possibilities that Auroville offers for the rest of the world remain endless, only if this mindset or respecting each-other was transferable literally anywhere else. I still do not think that even Auroville has what it takes, despite the strongest willingness to come together — which shows that determination alone does not make an alternative township. But if I, at least, tried to replicate this model within my own community in Paris, this would be a victory for a slightly better world. Like a tree growing in the middle of a barren land, it would be nothing short of a miracle.