The above drawing is by Ilengo (right) who says, “The path to follow in Auroville is very clear. Sometimes you get confused because there is an arrow that points in the wrong direction. But that shouldn't confuse you. The real path is different. It is obvious; and arrows show the way. The path is heavy but the angels hold it up. Sometimes because it is dark, you may get lost in the path, but with the help of the bonfire or the light from a torch, you will find it again. It is actually very simple.”
Nandanam, which means ‘garden' in Sanskrit, is Auroville's second kindergarten. Nandanam came about because Auroville's first kindergarten could not grow any bigger and take in the new children arriving in Auroville. A group of women, with and without children, decided to put their hearts and hands together to build a kindergarten from scratch. They took up different activities – one became the school's architect and designed the buildings; another got creative with generating money to help the school become bigger; a few became teachers; and all the mums and some dads cooked tasty food that was served at Nandanam's regular fund-raising dinners.
Nandanam has space for sixty of Auroville's 3 to 6 years olds. It has a crèche and three kindergarten classes. They are all named after one of the four elements: Jalam (water), Prithvi (earth), Agni (fire), and Vayu (air).
This April, Nandanam will turn four and the oldest class will be ready to ‘graduate' and move on to the next school. Everyone is excited, especially Agni, which will get to be the oldest class.
As part of their yearly explorations of themes, the nine children of Agni have been exploring the topics of My Self, My Family, and My Community. In the process, they thought about what they liked best in Auroville. Then they wondered how they would really like Auroville to look and be.
So the kids wrote; they expressed; they drew; they built models. And finally, they came up with one big idea! Why not build a kid's town in Auroville... and ideas tumbled out.
What shape should Auroville be? Almost everyone wanted it to be a circle; two thought a star-shape would be nice; and one was certain that a triangle would be the best.
And then there had to be water... Many more swimming pools; surely a lake; just plenty of water please.
But it is not easy to have so much water… so what to do next? Maybe dig for it? No, not such a good idea… Plant even more trees? Yes of course! Because more trees means more rain. So they decided to surround the city with trees.
Then they remembered that they also liked Matrimandir, and they liked to walk to it. So if they were in a forest full of trees, how could they get to Matrimandir quickly? There had to be many paths; perhaps a railway line with a little train. Trains are fun, and a train can connect all people in Auroville, and everyone can travel together by train. Of course, the Auroville train will stop for every person in town...
And then they remembered the Town Hall. On one Monday, the day when the entire school takes time to visit different parts of the community, they had walked to the Town Hall. And the Town Hall was like a huge playground; ramps to run up and down, lots of space, and oh so close to the Matrimandir. So what about a few slides from the top floor to the ground; some see-saws and swings, and maybe one jungle-gym?
And so the children sketched, painted and modelled their ideas for ‘Kid's town Auroville'.