Half a century is a long time for a community with an unconventional way of life to
Half a century is a long time for a community with an unconventional way of life tosustain itself and live up to its adopted ideals.
For the Mother, or Blance Rachel Mirra Alfassa, founding Auroville wasn’t an impulsive or spiritual decision. She had written in September 1965, “Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is human unity.”
This utopian concept is a way of life for the residents of Auroville, but for tourists, it holds a peculiar charm. In Auroville: Dream and Reality, An Anthology, editor Akash Kapur marks the community’s 50th year by curating writings from its residents. Having grown up there, Kapur returned to Auroville in 2003 after a decade of living abroad. He spent countless days in the dusty basement of the Auroville archives to unearth publications, memoirs, journals and reports. He pored through the volumes at the library to edit a compilation of essays, poems, fiction and even cartoons, which brings to the outside world the struggle, setbacks and achievements of the successful concept.
At the very beginning, Kapur states clearly that Auroville is not a utopia. “It is a complex, lived and very real community… enveloped in the uncertainties and ambiguities of humankind. The community is a living laboratory, a not-quite-yet defined experiment… founded and structured around certain ideals.”
The book presents writings from various periods on a host of topics: when the foundation was laid, the struggle to build in an eroded landscape (a letter calls Auroville ‘a battlefield’), the various arrivals which required a complete shift in perspective, the delicate balance between idealism and the reality of day-to-day existence, building up the economy, social organisations and governance, and the shared ecology between the surrounding Tamil villages and Auroville residents.