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L'aura Joy

A childhood I wouldn't give up for anything
I was born in 'Joy', in Auroville's Centre Field in January 1978. Like all AV kids, I went to Centre School for the first few years of my life. Although I don't remember these days clearly, many adults in AV have told me what a difficult and provocative kid I used to be!A difficult and provocative kid ..?

I moved on to Transition School a few years later, which I remember quite well. I have fond memories sitting in class and exploring the world along with Monna, Jyotis, Vikas, Samya, Martanda, Bhima and Akash. Writing letters to pen-pals in the US with Suzie, adding fractions with Mary, and studying French with Françoise...

Then came Last School. I remember this as the beginning of my 'student life', where academics and study skills took precedence. Now I had to learn how to write essays and lab reports, read and understand literature, memorize equations and draw graphs, and develop an appreciation for real French grammar. And... (how could I forget?) Johnny's plays.

Education outside of Auroville
But I didn't last long in Last School. There was something stirring within me, and I felt restless and trapped in AV. I had a sudden desire in 1991 to try Kodaikanal International School (Kodaikanal is a hill station in Tamil Nadu, south-west of Auroville). My grandmother agreed to help out with tuition, and I began KIS in January '92. I entered half-way through grade 9 (with my age-group), which was more or less at my academic level. This experience, however, was not for me. I found the rules too constricting, and the 'high-class kids' were first-class snobs.

At the end of grade 10 came a trip to Canada. I went with the intention of 'checking out' schools and possibly staying to continue my education. So, to make a long story short, I stayed (in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and completed grades 11 and 12. As I was enjoying my time, I decided to go to Dalhousie University (in the same city), and for the first time in my life, school was fascinating. In high school I had been bored. Nothing motivated me until university, where I was finally given the independence I needed in order to develop. I was finally given absolute freedom: to study whatever I felt like, to attend class whenever I felt like, to behave however I felt like, etc. Yes, this was for me! I got out of it what I put into it.L'aura in Toronto in 2000

But life was still a little tough. Having no money meant taking out a government student loan. So I worked and studied hard and graduated a year early with a Combined Honours in French and German.

What next? Where's my life going now?
Towards December '98, I started panicking a little. I was soon to graduate and had no idea what to do next. Go back to AV? Not yet. Go to Germany and student-teach in a high school or university? Um, maybe. Go to a translation school? Um, maybe. After numerous discussions on the matter with my mother (Janet, longtime Aurovilian), it gradually became clear to me that I wanted to enter the field of education. There had always been a part of me that wanted to be a teacher, but I never worked consciously towards this goal.

I moved to Toronto in the summer of '99 and got my Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto. Again, this was another amazing experience. I was one of the youngest 'pre-service teachers' (they didn't call us 'students', because we were on the road to becoming 'teachers') in a group of about 1000 adults from all backgrounds, cultural and professional.

So, now I am a 'real' teacher and just completed my first year of teaching French and Sociology in a big public high school of 1200 kids. My school has 'inner-city status', which basically translates: mostly immigrants, low parent involvement, high failure rate, drugs and gangs. Although this may not sound very appealing, I quite liked my kids. Because I was young and 'from India', they didn't see me as a threat. And the news that I spoke Tamil traveled in no time. Soon all the Sri Lankans, when they passed me in the halls, were saying, "Vanakkam". (For all you old-timer youth, I also became famous for the "Surangani" song!) I definitely love this profession, but I also never experienced more stress in my life!

Seven years abroad, but still an Aurovilian
Although I've been out for 7 years, I've remained in touch with AV (coming back to visit every 1-2 years), and I still feel like an AVian. When people ask where I'm from, I don't ever answer, "Canada". I always say, "Well, I grew up in a small, international community in India." I try and keep it as short as possible, because really, most people just don't get it. They ask, "Why? What were your parents doing there? Were they Christian missionaries? Is your father in the military service? Was he posted there? etc., etc." However, once in a while, I do come across a really interesting / interested person, and I explain AV as best I can.L'aura during her recent stay in AV

The problem, really, is how do I explain AV and what this community is trying to accomplish in the world? As kids, we were simply born here and didn't necessarily (or consciously) choose to come here. It was only after I went out that I realized what a special place AV is and how I had taken it for granted as a kid (because I didn't know any other way of living). So one of my regrets is that we weren't taught more about how AV started, its purpose, and the philosophy of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. (But, on the other hand, I'm glad we weren't indoctrinated with this either. It would have been like Big Brother was saying: "Believe this, or else...")

I always have mixed feelings when I come back to AV. Every time I return, I feel slightly more tourist-like. There are so many new faces on the road, both old and young, houses and communities are popping up everywhere, and because of my pale Canadian skin, people I don't know treat me like a visitor. Some AVians, when they see me, are genuinely interested in talking to me, asking what I've been up to, whereas others appear, to me, to be quite aloof and introverted.

On this present visit (summer '01), I came with intention of experiencing AV from a 'personal development' point of view, with absolutely no desire to 'hang-out'. I attend classes and lectures at 'Savitri Bhavan' on Sri Aurobindo's writings and am beginning to understand how AV may one day have something real to offer to the world.

I'm quite into athletics, so for a little fun and adventure, I join Patrick and Jackie's cycle gang on Thursday afternoons to re-discover the beauty of the moulu (thorn)-infested terrain surrounding AV. I also go to a few of the aerobics classes now offered at the New Creation Gym, and some may catch me out for a morning or evening jog.

Other activities include treating myself to a few relaxing / healing sessions at 'Quiet', studying Tamil grammar, and reading some of the interesting books floating around AV (such as Synchronicity - the Inner Path of Leadership, The Future of Money and Interest and Inflation Free Money).

My future
I'm hoping to pay back my loan within the next two years, at which time I'll feel absolutely free to do whatever I like. Although I can't promise anything, I would love to come back to Auroville to teach, and more importantly, to experience this community as an adult and to see if this is the place for me.

But, no matter what, Auroville is still my home...

Contact: l_joy@hotmail.com  
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