India

GREAT PROJECTS

We saw several great projects in Auroville and environs.

PRAKTI

One is called Prakti - a project to create fuel efficient stoves. Most people in India still cook on wood stoves and they both use too much wood and create a lot of smoke - which is toxic to inhale on a daily basis. 

Prakti has created a stove that optimizes the heat value of the wood and smokes very little. It is a great project and the stoves are already in use in many places in Tamil Nadu. Here are some pictures from our visit to Prakti's R+D facility. 

 

IMG_3691.JPG

My friend Amos observing Prakti prototypes being heated up. 

IMG_3692.JPG

Brochure developed in Tamil language.  You can find the project website at praktidesign.com

 

IMG_3694.JPG

Here is the chief engineer with their large kitchen model. These are in use at Sadhana Forest. 

 

PERMACULTURE

There are many permaculture projects in Auroville. One of them was at Evergreen where we stayed. It is very interesting to know that fifty years ago when Auroville was established, the land was almost completely desert. 

 

Naime, Omid and Lili at the Evergreen nursery.  

Naime, Omid and Lili at the Evergreen nursery.  

IMG_4348.JPG

Near Citadines we met a fellow called Domenico. He was a PhD student from Italy, and he had developed a self watering system of planters made out of pop bottles cut in half. 

IMG_4345.JPG

Lili showing how the lid is perforated - this gets set into the bottom half of the bottle which has water in it. Half the plants are in open soil for comparison in the previous image. 

 

SADHANA FOREST

Sadhana Forest main hut. Lili and Shalev are having fun with the ropes. 

Sadhana Forest main hut. Lili and Shalev are having fun with the ropes. 

Sadhana Forest is a reforestation project in Auroville about 25 minutes from the main Auroville settlement. It is a great place for anyone to go and volunteer for 2 weeks - or 2 years! At the time of our visit they had about 70 volunteers, even one from Finland. 

You can find out more about Sadhana Forest from their website sadhanaforest.org

 

 

TEN THINGS ABOUT INDIA

IMG_4488.JPG

1. It is not as crowded as one would think. However, if you go to Northern India, people will be hanging out of train windows and doors - just like in the movies. 

2. India is a country where use of toilet paper is not that common. 

3. There are over 100 languages in India. Really.

4. No one gets angry in traffic. They just weave in this organic, elastic flow with strange detachment. 

5. The chai is delicious. 

6. Indian women are impeccably dressed. They will have a freshly pressed sari, flowers in their hair and jewellery on every morning, even if they go on to work in the fields.  (Indian people think that western people are dirty).

7. The environmental degradation one sees everywhere does give serious pause.

8. The 'demonetization' - cancelling of all 500 and 1000 rupee bills caused a lot of hassle.

9. Quality of wifi and access to internet were disappointing throughout the trip. We were a bit surprised by this.

10.  You eat by hand. And only use your right hand, please....

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Indian fashions are truly, truly exquisite. 

POLLUTION IN INDIA...

Ooh the pollution in India. You may think that I will now write about air quality and dirt and garbage (which really really need to be written about), but I will leave that to others.

I will write about noise. Holy smokes it is noisy here. IT'S NOISY!!

First comes traffic. We have all seen images of traffic in India flowing from exotically disorganized to fully chaotic manner - when it moves. Back home we are conditioned to use the horn when there is danger. Well, here you use the horn to indicate that you are here. It is an existential tool. So everyone honks! Bikes, rickshaws, cars, trucks, buses - they ALL honk when anything that moves is nearby. And that is pretty much all the time. Bizarrely, some trucks even paint 'Sound Horn' on their backs - as if anyone really needed any encouragement to do so.

Without a horn in India, you are as good as dead... 

Without a horn in India, you are as good as dead... 

 

The second issue is the amplified music. I will just call it Hindu muzak. In Auroville it starts at about 05:00 hrs am. And it is LOUD. Again, this must be some exhilarating exercise for the lone DJ in the middle of a field somewhere with speakers on top of a huge pole. The sound carries for miles. Miles. I am being told the music actually is from a temple but this makes no sense to me as it clearly is what I would call 'party music'.

The religious calls for prayer or scripture readings are a different thing. Absolutely. They only start at about 05:05 hrs am, and blend with the aforementioned muzak. This of course is Hindu-Muslim unity in one sense so we are grateful for that.

Another powerful factor are the dogs. Did I mention that there are tons of dogs here? Like hundreds. The Auroville animal shelter is full of dogs - all seventy five spots filled, all the time. The 'kept' dogs are generally watchdogs so they bark at anything that moves, especially all night long. And when one starts to bark the others join in with a big howl. If you can remember the scene from  101 Dalmatians where all the stray dogs are barking in a chain across the county to warn all existence that Cruella de Vil is on the loose, you will know what I mean. Indian dogs are good, solid howlers.

It's of course Ok to have all this life around us. It's great. Why it can be an issue is that people here do not have windows - they have holes in the wall (if there are walls at all). Sometimes with mosquito netting. And we don't even have walls as you will know if you have read my posts about the treehouse 'capsule' where we are staying.

So what to do? Well, you just go to sleep early, because you *will* wake up at five.

COUNT THE PEACOCKS!

A beautiful one.  The peacock is India's national bird.

A beautiful one.  The peacock is India's national bird.

This lovely lovely place is where we have spent our last week in Auroville: it is called Gratitude Farm.  Our host is Thomas, a true Auroville oldtimer from Germany, and a lover of birds. We have peacocks, geese, guineafowl and other feathered friends around us all day - and night. And we get raw milk and raw butter from his dairy herd - what a treat! Highlights of the day are feeding times when Thomas walks around the grounds and sprinkles corn and grains onto the sand.

 

Here is the yard with one pigeon and one peacock. 

Here is the yard with one pigeon and one peacock. 

And here is Thomas at feeding time... see how many peacocks you can find! 

And here is Thomas at feeding time... see how many peacocks you can find! 

Here are two of the friendly geese. 

Here are two of the friendly geese. 

This is our house!  

This is our house!  

And Lili doing cartwheels. 

And Lili doing cartwheels. 

KATHAKALI DANCE

Here goes high culture after all: we did catch a Katakali show in Kochi on our last evening. The show no longer is where it used to be and stat an hour earlier than advertised so on our second try we actually did succeed.

Kathakali is a very refined South Indian art form in which the dancers execute dance moves to tell ancient mythological stories. The characters, different make ups and gestures and hand movements are highly specific and a result of several years or training. 

 

The place we went to is very modest. It is a small place on a narrow street well away from the upscale and touristy parts of town.

The place we went to is very modest. It is a small place on a narrow street well away from the upscale and touristy parts of town.

Here is a picture of the hall. Th show begins by the audience being able to watch the artists get into makeup, which takes almost an hour!  Lili and Dante are in front row on the right.

Here is a picture of the hall. Th show begins by the audience being able to watch the artists get into makeup, which takes almost an hour!  Lili and Dante are in front row on the right.

Both the dancers were men. The artist on the right is actually making himself up to be a woman. 

Both the dancers were men. The artist on the right is actually making himself up to be a woman. 

Imagine our surprise when we saw this on the wall: these were the very artists the Prince of Wales saw in his recent trip to India! How great is that?? 

Imagine our surprise when we saw this on the wall: these were the very artists the Prince of Wales saw in his recent trip to India! How great is that?? 

And here they are - in full action. It was very special to see how this performance, and especially rewarding as the artists spent a long time demonstrating and explaining how the gestures and actions work before the 'actual' piece started.  

And here they are - in full action. It was very special to see how this performance, and especially rewarding as the artists spent a long time demonstrating and explaining how the gestures and actions work before the 'actual' piece started.  

VERY HIGH CULTURE

This post is for those friends who hold that our trip is one unending immersion into deep, authentic and original cultural experiences. 

In the last 24 hours we have been at our hotel in Kochi, enjoying such luxuries as clean bedsheets, well functioning wifi, warm showers and having personal space. We missed a Kathakali dance performance (this would in fact have been genuine high culture) due to a common Indian experience of many people telling us different things, and posted times being incorrect.

So we took a rickshaw back to the hotel, ordered stuffed parathas and lassis from room service, played cards and watched a James Bond movie. It was an awesome night.

 

 

Oh yeah. Roger Moore and Grace Jones. 

Oh yeah. Roger Moore and Grace Jones. 

The internet advises us that A View to a Kill is, out of 23 Bond movies, the second worst ever made. (Apparently ony Octopussy is even more awful). Bwahahaa!  But we enjoyed the horse riding and scenery from Paris which we will visit later this year.  In the pic above, James Bond is in the Eiffel Tower.

The internet advises us that A View to a Kill is, out of 23 Bond movies, the second worst ever made. (Apparently ony Octopussy is even more awful). Bwahahaa!

But we enjoyed the horse riding and scenery from Paris which we will visit later this year.  In the pic above, James Bond is in the Eiffel Tower.

ALLEPPEY BOAT TRIP

Now most people who come to Alleppey do so to take a boat trip 'on the backwaters'. There are beautiful canals (sort of) and lots of life and nature to see. The six of us opted to hire a boat for half a day and off we went. It made for a rally nice day.

 

 

Here we are setting out.  

Here we are setting out.  

The traveling family! Our skipper in the back is called Sreejit. 

The traveling family! Our skipper in the back is called Sreejit. 

We stopped to buy water and the store had two young hawks on a perch! It was so lovely we all took turns holding them. 

We stopped to buy water and the store had two young hawks on a perch! It was so lovely we all took turns holding them. 

Lili's turn. 

Lili's turn. 

Scenery off the boat. 

Scenery off the boat. 

Lili took this picture. 

Lili took this picture. 

It was late morning so we saw many people doing laundry. 

It was late morning so we saw many people doing laundry. 

Enjoying veggie thali for lunch in true South Indian way - off banana leaves.

Enjoying veggie thali for lunch in true South Indian way - off banana leaves.

Yum yum! 

Yum yum! 

A couple more scenery photos by Lili. 

A couple more scenery photos by Lili. 

IMG_4076.JPG
IMG_4065.JPG

YAY FRIENDS! DR. BOBBY, ROB AND EMILY!

We went to Kerala not only to see Kerala but to meet with Dr. Bobby (or Boctor Dobby as Lili calls him). It was so great to meet him - he was traveling with his lovely partner Rob, and Emily, a friend of theirs from Vancouver. 

 

Lili and Dr. Bobby on Marari Beach

Lili and Dr. Bobby on Marari Beach

Emily, Bobby, Lili and Rob at the lobby of the Ramada in Alleppey. I have to extend a special note of gratitude to the Ramada staff who were extremely kind and welcoming to us even though we were not staying there (Bobby & troupe were). We spent some really great times at their pool and games area playing carrom / carambol and badminton. 

Emily, Bobby, Lili and Rob at the lobby of the Ramada in Alleppey. I have to extend a special note of gratitude to the Ramada staff who were extremely kind and welcoming to us even though we were not staying there (Bobby & troupe were). We spent some really great times at their pool and games area playing carrom / carambol and badminton. 

OFF TO KERALA FOR A VISIT

We took off for a quick trip further South to meet up with our dear friend Dr. Bobby (our ND and family doctor). We added a new travel sleeping experience by traveling on an overnight sleeper bus.  

Here is where we travelled by bus. It's a long way! 

Here is where we travelled by bus. It's a long way! 

 

Waiting for the bus in Pondi. We were all tired - it left at 10 pm. 

Waiting for the bus in Pondi. We were all tired - it left at 10 pm. 

In the morning. The ride was almost 10 hours. It was great to be able to sleep. 

In the morning. The ride was almost 10 hours. It was great to be able to sleep. 

Dante on the bus. 

Dante on the bus. 

Here we are at the Kochi railway station (which is actually called Ernakulam Junction) waiting to take a local train to Alleppey (also called Alapphuza). The ride is about 80 minutes and cost all of 145 rupees ($ 2.90 CDN) for all three of us.  

Here we are at the Kochi railway station (which is actually called Ernakulam Junction) waiting to take a local train to Alleppey (also called Alapphuza). The ride is about 80 minutes and cost all of 145 rupees ($ 2.90 CDN) for all three of us.  

The trains are so cool. This car can be a sleeper car or seat car depending on need. Seat on left has backrests down to make one bed and on the right side of the wall the backrests are up to make two seats. 

The trains are so cool. This car can be a sleeper car or seat car depending on need. Seat on left has backrests down to make one bed and on the right side of the wall the backrests are up to make two seats. 

And a cup of really nice South Indian masala chai on the train - yum yum. 

And a cup of really nice South Indian masala chai on the train - yum yum. 

Lots of interesting things to see from the window. 

Lots of interesting things to see from the window. 

HAPPY FEET

IMG_3865.JPG

So these are my feet. I often say that my ideal place to live is where one never needs to wear socks - so BC remains a bit of a half measure in this regard.

I have not worn shoes for over two months now. The only footwear I have around are flip flops (which are called chappals in India). Flip flops are helpful in keeping your feet clean, but there is something so incredibly pleasant in being in bare feet that I have long since accepted that the soles of my feet are reddish brown pretty much all the time. (In the photo my feet are unusually clean because this morning we did laundry - read: stomping clothes in your bare feet in a bucket of water). 

In India you need to remove shoes before entering most buildings, including stores. It is nice to feel the cool floor with the soles of your feet. At the Matrimandir gardens I walk on the natural stone paths and that also feels great.

I think we are meant to feel and connect with our feet.

CHRISTMAS UNITY

One of the many lovely public buildings in Auroville is called the Unity Pavilion. We have been there for talks, meditation and just hanging out, but at Christmas they put on a great big celebration for children. Needless to say that we were there with bells on!

 

The Unity Pavilion

The Unity Pavilion

At first there was craft - lots of shiny paper to cut stars and snowflakes from. The green square is Lili's. 

At first there was craft - lots of shiny paper to cut stars and snowflakes from. The green square is Lili's. 

Then there was a huge spread of holiday food, hot chocolate and sandwiches. 

Then there was a huge spread of holiday food, hot chocolate and sandwiches. 

And ooh aah, there was Rice Pudding! 

And ooh aah, there was Rice Pudding! 

All the children good fruit and goodies on the way out. 

All the children good fruit and goodies on the way out. 

Merry Christmas to all! 

YAY FRIENDS - BRAD

I am a little late posting this but my dear friend and colleague Brad Waites was here in Auroville for a week. Brad also lives in Vancouver. 

Brad will be offering a 200 hr yoga teacher training here in India with our colleague Jennifer Weinert from Hawaii in early 2018. We had a great time hanging out together in Auroville, visiting Matrimandir and Pondicherry, and just enjoying India in general.

 

We had lunch at the Solar Kitchen - a real Auroville experience

We had lunch at the Solar Kitchen - a real Auroville experience

In Pondy - on our friends rooftop - you can see the Ashram in the background.

In Pondy - on our friends rooftop - you can see the Ashram in the background.

Brad and our friend Mark checking out the Golconde, the first modernist building in India. 

Brad and our friend Mark checking out the Golconde, the first modernist building in India. 

Brad with a special hat and a young friend. 

Brad with a special hat and a young friend. 

Yay Purna buddies! 

Yay Purna buddies! 

Christmas Eve dinner! Yes - we had pizza.  

Christmas Eve dinner! Yes - we had pizza.  

FAQ AND HOW TO USE THIS BLOG

Hello! Just a couple of maintenance points. 

1. This blog records our trip. Some days I have more time to write and some days less, so the posts do come at uneven intervals. 

2. We have severe limitations to wifi access in India, so sometimes I will post something and continue it later. Or I have to post the photos the next day. So some posts may have updates in them after their initial posting (see the first Auroville post for example).

3. I did look into setting up an RSS feed in Bangkok so you could subscribe to notifications every time a new post is published. It would require me to subscribe to Mailchimp and feed a mailing list to the system - things I am not able to do right now. So the RSS feed will probably be available for our next trip around the world! 

4. Yes. My glasses broke. I was bummed - to say the least. But it happened in Bangkok so I was able to get new glasses in two days. The new glasses are OK... but I have also kept my old glasses in the hopes that someone might still be able to fix them for me. (Monny in Vancouver, I will come and see you.)

5. If you double click on a post, it opens in a separate window and you can comment on it right there! Or you can mail me through my website or my hotmail address (lauraarp at hotmail dot com). We always love hearing from our friends!

Old glasses. Photo is from Hanoi. 

Old glasses. Photo is from Hanoi. 

New glasses. This is in Pondicherry. 

New glasses. This is in Pondicherry. 

MORE ON THE MATRIMADIR

Ok by request I am posting more images of the Matrimandir. I went to the very nice library here in Auroville and took photos of some books for you. This will help you appreciate this completely amazing structure more - photography is not allowed in the Park of Unity and when you enter the park you can only take yourself, all bags and purses are checked on the gate. 

And I am so glad it is so. 

 

View of Matrimandir across the amphitheater. 

View of Matrimandir across the amphitheater. 

This is an overall diagram of the Park of Unity. It is a silent park. 

This is an overall diagram of the Park of Unity. It is a silent park. 

It took years to build the Matrimandir. It was started in around 1971 and the dome was completed in 2008. The gardens are still under construction. It is not easy for me to communicate how special this building is, and how astounding its quality is. Aurovilleans built it, and none of them were builders to begin with. Excavation was done by hand, with over 400 Tamil workers hired to haul soil out in round baskets. 

This shows the entry to the main chamber and the Lotus Pond underneath it. 

This shows the entry to the main chamber and the Lotus Pond underneath it. 

And little by little, the community grew and every now and then a tradesman was amongst them. For example an Aurovillean from Siberia was a specialist in marble and natural stone. The gold discs (yes it is real gold) were made over and again through trial and error, until a sandwiching system was developed in Germany where gold leaf was fired in between two pieces of glass into mosaics. There are almost 1500 discs but the gold is so thin that it took 'only' about 14 kg of pure gold to coat the entire dome.

This is a cross section of the dome.  And yes Matrimandir means 'the Mother's Shrine'.

This is a cross section of the dome.  And yes Matrimandir means 'the Mother's Shrine'.

This is inside the dome. The amazing white ramps lead up to the inner chamber.  

This is inside the dome. The amazing white ramps lead up to the inner chamber.  

On the path upwards - the quality of finishes is superb.

On the path upwards - the quality of finishes is superb.

This is from inside a 'petal' - one of the 12 meditation rooms surrounding the main dome. 

This is from inside a 'petal' - one of the 12 meditation rooms surrounding the main dome. 

Here is another petal. The quality of light is sooo subtle. 

Here is another petal. The quality of light is sooo subtle. 

And this is the Inner Chamber: a round room with a brilliant ray of sunlight directed into a glass prism (and through it to the Lotus Pond below). The entire room is white, you come in wearing white socks and can stay for 15-30 minutes for quiet concentration. You can only sit quietly, any religious or codified movements or rites are not allowed. 

And this is the Inner Chamber: a round room with a brilliant ray of sunlight directed into a glass prism (and through it to the Lotus Pond below). The entire room is white, you come in wearing white socks and can stay for 15-30 minutes for quiet concentration. You can only sit quietly, any religious or codified movements or rites are not allowed. 

Access to the Inner Chamber is very restricted.  Matrimandir is not a tourist destination. First time visitors need to come to Auroville the day before their intended visit and get a pass. Then on the day of the visit, one has to watch an introductory film and then go in with a guide. There is a long introduction with a guide in the Park before entering the building.  The Inner Chamber can accommodate about 75 people maximum, and first time visitors stay in about 15 minutes.

Children under 10 are not admitted to the Park. That being said Tuesday is Children's Day for Aurovilleans when they can visit with appropriate supervision. Before this trip I did not know if Lili would get to go at all, and I decided that the right thing will happen about that. 

And what happened was this: we enrolled her in a Young Aurovilleans Program intended for children of guests - and not only did she get to go, she went with her group leader and one other child. So the  three of them got to experience that stunning space all alone for twenty minutes. The 'right thing' here was more like a VIP experience. 

That's how things often work out here, I am told. 

It is so beautiful.  

It is so beautiful.