Arriving in Chennai
The first contact with India is something that you will remember for all of your life. Going from the airport of Chennai to the central bus station, it looks like being in a refugee camp: a quantity of bodies is laying in every free inch of the floor. Since travels last up to 3 consecutive days without stopping, waiting in India is a normal condition: the connection coming the next day, the bus with several hours of delay, or the relatives coming to visit. From here, to the ex-French colony of Pondicherry is 3 more hours of bus, through a befogged vegetation taken from a fairy tale, where local life, despite is still sunrise, is already swinging into action to to get by another day.
Auroville: the city of dawn
With a third bus and a short auto-rickshaw ride I finally reach destination: the community of Auroville. Created in 1968, it has the goal to experiment a new society looking for “human unity” where “men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities". Soon Auroville becomes famous, and it is supported by UNESCO and by the 124 countries that took part at his inauguration. After more than 40 years, the project is still going on and it is today made of over 100 communities distributed over an area of 20 km2, that practice organic agricoltur, research, yoga, art, aternative medicine, touristic services. But the focus of Auroville is the “Matrimandir”, a temple recognazible for his aspect similar to a golden sphere, layed over 12 lateral petals. With a visit to the interior, possible only after phone reservation, you are left open-mouthed: a futuristic architecture where a helical ramp is taking to the main hall surrounded by an atmosphere of peace. Out of the 9 months of asian travel, the Matrimandir is one of the thing that is staying more embedded in my soul.
Four weeks of volunteering in Sadhana Forest
Who would like to donate some time as a volunteer in Auroville, has the possibility to agree with one of the many realities available on the territory: so I decide to stay 4 weeks with the community of Sadhana Forest. Outwardly it's only a series of wooden huts, built with local materials and workers, inside wich are interacting the volunteers, up to 150 at the same time. Work, music, sharing: community life is a main aspect of this project. Born only 7 years ago (9 years at the present date, Ed.), Sadhana forest has as a principal goal reforestation, and in particular the recreation of the “Tropical dry evergreen forest”, the indigenous forest of the place destroyed by the deforestation during the colonial period. From the day of its creation, more than 20.000 trees of 150 different species have been planted. But one of the main asset of this project, is to work as a learning center of sustainable practices. ““May there be many forests to grow people”: this is the motto summarizing this vision. In fact a well rounded sustainable lifestyle is lived, starting from the diet, strictly vegan. Big attention is put to avoid every minimal waste of water, compost toilet are used and there is no electric power if not in the community hut. An autonomous and off-grid photovoltaic plant, provide the minimum requirement of energy needed, that during the rain season is supplemented with a “human energy” system: 4 bicycles connected to a dynamo. And thanks to environmental sensibilization events for adults and children, they try to involves in the projects also local inhabitants. Sadhana Forest is an expanding reality, and the second project is already started recently in Haiti, to help and give relief to the local people, being an example on how to rest art after the catastrophe, in a sustainable way.
(This is a translation of an article I originally wrote for the italian magazine Latitudeslife Ed.)
Sadhana Forest: http://sadhanaforest.org/