[Goddamit, WordPress has gone and changed something around and everything looks different. WHY?! Why do you have an issue with things that work well staying the way they are?!]
With that out of the way, and while I try and figure out how to insert pictures *eyeroll* let me tell you about Auroville (and I’m going to quickly run through this).
All the non-stop running around since 1 September had really left me feeling very exhausted and in need of some deliberate, organised downtime. Outside my own home, removed from the urge to potter around and tidy up and generally keep myself needlessly busy. I have been longing for some time to just sit, be, slow down, empty my head, breathe easy. I wanted to go away somewhere — not fancy where I’d be tempted to sightsee — where I could wander aimlessly, or choose to sit with a book (or two, or three!) uninterrupted. Some likeminded company would have been good, I thought. In a wild, wild coincidence I happened to discuss the idea and the sudden urge to eat at the Solar Kitchen (in Auroville) with A, exactly when she was plotting to go over there on the weekend, by herself. So of course I just tagged along, in what she called our separate “alone trips”. But not without some overthinking of the fact that I would only just be back from Goa less than 48 hours before taking off again, that I have been feeling travelled out and should probably chill. But really, it took a split second to realise two days wasn’t going to change much. So I quit the overthinking and just went. With the express intention of accompanying A to eat at the Solar Kitchen.
As much as I like elaborate holidays that require planning yada yada, I am oh so very happy with this kind of quick escape, with absolutely no plan whatsoever. We picked a spot to stay within walking distance of the Solar Kitchen. Because, priorities. And allowed the rest of the nonexistent plan to work itself out around that. Which it did, organically, spontaneously and rather beautifully for our liking.
What ensued was two days of mostly wandering around on foot, interspersed with lots of reading and eating. Yeah, basically just that.
The cyclone scare meant the weather while humid and sweaty, wasn’t exactly blistering and painfully hot as it could have been. We had pleasant-ish weather most of the way, which encouraged us to get out a little. We walked a total of 11 kms on day 1, despite spending most of it sitting around reading or eating. We hit the Solar Kitchen, the Auroville Library (which is oh-my-god delightful, and an ideal place to spend many uninterrupted hours, if you enjoy books and silence) and neither spots kicked us out in a rush. So there was much lounging, pulling out our books wherever we were plonked, and proceeding to lose ourselves.
Then we took a loooong one-hour walk to the beach to catch the sunset, making stops at the Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh to stock up on Auroville goodies, followed by a super-early pizza at Tanto’s before heading back home.
The great thing about eating at sunset means one still has a couple of hours before bedtime, which we of course spent, surprise surprise, reading, and still slept early enough to rise just after sunrise the next day. We walked upto the MatriMandir, which wasn’t too far off from our guesthouse, but of course we weren’t let in. No amount of referring to the sweet security dude as “uncle” seemed to help. The rest of the morning, post an excellent breakfast of muesli and yogurt with fruit and hot chai, was spent lazing in bed, you guessed right, reading. At lunch time we headed back to Solar Kitchen and hit the Visitor’s Centre to shop for some more goodies before walking back home again. When the sun went down a bit, we hit the beach again — earlier this time — to take in the evening sights and the sunset. A chai stopover later, we were back home to catch yet another dinner and lots of bedtime reading again.
You get the drift right? We were very, very focused on the eating and the reading, strategically planning all our wandering based on where we wanted to stop to eat and the moment we settled in a quiet spot for longer than five minutes, we’d whip out our books and ignore each other. Somewhere in between all this we chatted too, somehow. Lots and lots of chatting, some gossiping, lots of giggling. It was just the weekend I needed, and it couldn’t have panned out better.
We meant to book ourselves tatkal tickets to return on Sunday night, but a slow Internet connection, a two minute delay in catching the window and a large dose of not caring too much meant we missed our chance. And so we ended up staying an extra night only to leave on Monday. Which actually worked out excellently because it meant I got to finish three entire books, have an extra breakfast at the guesthouse and I always prefer leaving fresh on a new day than spend a whole day in anticipation of leaving at sunset (which is always so FOMO-inducing).
Things I enjoyed the most:
- A train ride after yonks! And unreal excitement about cooking and packing dinner to eat enroute. Train journeys are all about the food for me.
- Walking, walking, walking. I’ve been feeling the need to move, and walking specifically, has been calling out to me. Ever since I had to make the hard decision to skip the next OXFAM trail-walk (because I’m woefully underprepared this year and in absolutely no shape to wing it) I’ve been feeling the urge to start walking in preparation for next year. Wandering on foot has been such a great way to get a hang of the areas I’ve travelled to, and creates a very different kind of connect with the space that I’ve loved and hadn’t tasted in ages
- All the reading. To be able to read in silence, as much as yak nonstop is special thing to share with a friend. I’m happy to add another person with whom I can share this with, to my list.
- The sense of community at AV. While there’s a confusing slightly disorienting strain to wandering around a hot and sweaty area in Tamil Nadu surrounded by white people who seem to be more in tune with the land than most of us visiting there like outsiders, it definitely triggered a yearning for community living in me. One of the things that’s really come to the fore thanks to living in Bangalore is how isolating and insulating city life can be. In sharp contrast to my life in Goa where I’ve just had the luxury of camping out at a friends for three weeks, where everything is slower and harder to get done but the process leads to uncanny conversations and surprising connections and dependencies always gives me a sense of community and connection that I miss in Bangalore where there’s a palpable dog-eat-dog energy and everyone just fends for themselves and asking for help is so difficult. It warms my heart to see people come together, in whatever form, to nourish and nurture a common vision and I hope and wish that somewhere in my future, I have the means to experience this more deeply.
- Watching women cycle around with such ease. In dhoti pants, in sarees, in cycle shorts and all the gear — so was so much cycling it made me think back wistfully to my cycling days in Goa.
- The ease with which I could get up and go. This was a real thrill, one that I am still savouring slowly two days after I’ve been back. This is new and refreshing for me.
- The food. The food. The food.
- A visible, slowly permeating shift in my own ability to connect with people one-on-one. While on the one hand I’ve been talking about and feeling a sense of needing a community, deeper within, I’ve sensed a shift of sorts in my own personal connection with people. My “groups” seem to be dwindling fast, and it’s putting me in a very different space, forging healthier, more stable, and most importantly hassle-free equations with many of those same people, as individuals. It has come with a fair amount of anxiety about something very deep and innate about me changing, the resistance to let the comforts of an old and stable pattern go, but it has also been oddly liberating and that has encouraged me to push thru, let down my guard and not worry too much about the old ghosts that rear their heads so often.
- The sea. I realise I visit the beach so little in Goa, that going to the beach elsewhere is still a treat. I made a mental note to make the effort to go to the sea more often when I’m back in Goa, because it’s a luxury I don’t want to take for granted.