Auroville is bipolar. Not in the sense of manic-depressive – although we could discuss that one – but in the sense that it has two well-defined but contrasting seasons. The winter season is the time of bright young tourists, hippies past their sell-by date and somewhat bewildered parents who are desperately trying to work out why their offspring ended up here.
Winter is the time of new ideas or recycled ideas which are keenly re-espoused, of workshops on cosmic renewal, sustainable community and screaming your way to bliss (not really, I made that one up). It's the time when we reorganize our organization, when visiting speakers bring us up-to-speed with the latest in global transformation, when ex-Aurovilians visit and tell us where we're going wrong, when everybody's diary is stuffed full of events, appointments and reminders: “remember to breathe, remember to phone the eco-man, remember to tell myself I am the incarnation of unconditional love”. Winter is green, green, every visitor wants to become an Aurovilian and retire to a little house in the greenbelt or to open a small workshop on the beach selling leather thongs and carved dolphins.
Summertime is different. Auroville is empty, tawny, the visitors – and many of the Aurovilians – burned away like so much tallow. Diaries are composted and the dense silence is broken only by the popping of copper-pod seeds, the light patter of pesticides falling on cashew leaves and the occasional motorcyclist. Summer is the time of impromptu, sweaty meetings outside Pour Tous, of brain-fried cyclists veering wildly across the road, of the pervasive red dust which settles on everyone and everything like a perverse benediction.
It's when Auroville goes minimalist, the almost courtly exchanges of the winter season replaced by atavistic grunts and growls. These are the days when undying enmities are created by someone jumping the queue at the fruit counter, when ten minute power-cuts evoke howls as if from the depths of Dante's Inferno. Summer is the time when most of the Services announce that “We're closed for the next two months. Have a nice day”; when fashion Auroville is supplanted by stained tee-shirts, battered chappals and not very much in-between; when the servers at the Solar Kitchen, starved of clients, try to involve you in long, intense conversations: “The onion raita is very good today. You don't like it? Why not? Didn't your mother breast-feed you? Wait, wait, you can tell me.”
Yet, summer does have its uses. It's the ultimate testing-ground, so the projects and initiatives which are still running during June and July are likely to have deeper roots and hardier leaves than the hot-house plants tenderly nurtured during the winter season. (Of course, there are always those groups which grind on, year after year, as if on auto-pilot, untouched by vulgar considerations like utility or relevance.)
Summer is the in-breath which balances the outgoing energy of winter, it's the fallow ground out of which unexpected shoots emerge. Summer is the time when there's a little bit more time – to talk to your neighbour (assuming you still have one), to read Proust, to watch the shadows inch lazily across your porch, to count the tiles on the ceiling as you lie spread-eagled on the cool floor of your shower.
Summer is ... alright, agreed, I'm off myself next week to cooler climes. But I know, I really know, there are a great many advantages to staying here during the heat.
If only I could think of them.