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Auroville Adventure

Feb 2002

Circles in the sand

- by Renu


It's a weird thing, this growing up business. I am still trying to grow up, but my life clock tells me I'm all grown now. I experienced life in Auroville and India as it wove a rich tapestry of archetypes in surreal situations. Ultimately we are seeking the thread of sense in our own life. Being a child in Auroville is to know the ground beneath your bare feet, and that, is to own your world. We roamed the landscape and water holes discovering. Later, I remember the discomfort of pre-pubescent existential angst; I sat with a stick in the cashew topes drawing in the pink sand, wanting the waves of life to carry me away from myself. Growing is changing. I left the world I knew and ventured to America.

Walking bare-foot in Oakland was a pokey affair of industrial "mulus". Our woodworking shop produced a quantity of: screws, sharp wood and metal filings, all unpleasant to step on. The glass blowers and polishers in the adjacent building also spilled waste glass that glistened in the aisle ways, not to mention Bruce, who made frivolous yet inspired art from an disorderly old mess that leaned around haphazardly in and out of his room. We lived above our workshop in a lovely, dilapidated compound of warehouses that are rented as studios. It is located in the industrial part of the West Oakland ghetto. I learned to work for a living; which means being organised to survive away from familiarity. Preferring to leave office work for the satisfaction of physical work I became a house painter and then a carpenters helper. I met Paco and joined his team. Years later, I would work in our office paying bills and haggling the various insurance agents we were forced to maintain. My life was fulfilling an endless list of priorities. I began to think I was leading an insect's life, of bringing in the food and taking out the garbage.

Across the street Mad Dog, Brown and some other homeless folk, began living in an abandoned camper. They occasionally worked for the Cole Brothers (Floyd and Maurice), the Auto wreckers' our other neighbors. Their yard is filled with cut up car bodies, spilled engines, burning tires, and heaps of parts, the soil in their yard is a greasy grey black. An old truck loaded with slightly compressed cars' lives in front of their yard.

Brown failed to maintain any order or cleanliness in his domain, and finally, despite the friendship his proximity had encouraged, I remember wishing that he be gone. I had been reminding, and threatening him for many months to maintain some form of order in vain. In the end I saw myself, pregnant shoveling his rubbish, while unsuccessfully trying to coax him into helping me, as he sat in his house, probably drinking beer and shooting up. Well, it wasn't too long after that that the city came down and towed the van and scraped the dirt bare of debris. We took this as a godsend, so together with our neighbor Steve the granite sculptor and Katherine, we began landscaping the area. Holes were drilled through the remnants of the concrete sidewalk for the camphor trees, which we planted shortly after Isa's birth. We periodically sowed seeds of Californian Poppy, sunflower and clover along with random plantings of excess garden plants.

I never felt far from Auroville. The stream of Aurovilian friends and acquaintances passing through our loft was continuous. Despite my apocalyptic environment, I lived a parallel existence with Auroville in my head and heart, and treasured that I had actually been given the chance to "live" and not just survive, like so many I saw. My peers were so beaten by life's heavy stick and molded by TV's expectations that Auroville's promise was like a fairy tale on a cynic's shelf when I spoke of it. I missed the clarity of the absurdity in the life I had lead, I now longed for the waves of life to carry me back to myself. After fourteen years, I am more than grateful to embrace my childhood kingdom once again, and to watch my children unfold in it.

My beloved Auroville, to know the orange earth, the mulus and weeds, to drag a stick through the pink sand.


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