After nearly five months of living in Auroville, I still couldn’t find a good reason to leave. I went from living near the Matrimandir to living by the beach, but I could not bring myself to leave until I had to (owing to a medical emergency). But I often wondered, what was it about Auroville that I found difficult to part with.
I have come to understand that it’s the wholesome living that Auroville offers which makes it an ideal place to live long-term. Not only is the community very diverse (representing over 30 nationalities), it makes it much easier to pursue your hobbies or pick new ones. Many of the things that one has to usually travel quite a bit in cities for, are easily accessible like a movie theatre, a well stocked library, or a sports facility.
Below are some of the things that had me completely lovestruck with Auroville –
- Mon-Sat: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm
- Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat: 2:00 – 4:30 pm
- Tuesday Evening: 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Deposit: Rs. 1000, No monthly fee
Location: Near Solar kitchen junction, opposite Kalpana guest house.
Who can use the Library: Anyone can go there to read, Only Auro card holders can borrow books
The first time I walked into Auroville library, I smiled behind my mask like I had found my magic kingdom. It was during lockdown, so sitting inside was not permitted but we could take a book and sit outside the library. But I took my sweet time to walk through all the sections one by one from essays to fiction to world history.
At the end of the long hallway with cupboards stacked with books on both sides, is a large wooden study table. One can sit there with their books or laptops. In addition to this study table, there are seating spaces under large glass windows. These seating spaces have a mattress and cushion to comfortably stretch with your back to the wall and enjoy your book in your private reading nook.
How to use the Auroville Library:
One needs to have Auro Card to be able to borrow books from the library. However, if you only wish to visit the library and read there, Auro Card is not needed.
To start borrowing, you would need to go to financial services with your Auro Card (even if you don’t have one, financial services is where you get it) and get Rs. 1000 deposited on the card. Then go to the library with your card, they will create an account for you. This involves, debiting Rs. 1000 from your AV account. This amount is refundable.
How to close your account at the library:
Go to the library and they would do the needful. However to get the Rs. 1000 deposit back, one needs to visit the financial services again which is about a Kilometer from the Library.
In addition to being stocked with books in various languages, the library has a special something that I love – The ‘free to take’ section. You can either take a book from here or drop yours for someone else to read. As a minimalist, I prefer to not to have more than one book in hard copy. But I chanced upon ‘Women who run with the wolves’ there and the heavy book has been keeping me company since I left Auroville a few weeks ago.
Note: During the summers (May and June), the library is open in the afternoons of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 4 pm to 6:30 pm. Morning times remain the same and in the afternoon, it's closed on other days.
One can borrow up to 3 books at a time for a period of 30 days (can be extended too if there’s no active waitlist on it).
Auroville Free Store
- Mon – Saturday: 9 am – 12:30 pm
- Tue, Thu: 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Location: Near Auroville Solar Kitchen
Who can use the facility: Aurovilians and Newcomers (A formal stage on the journey to becoming an Aurovilian)
There are few things I detest as much as I detest overconsumption. But to get someone started on minimalism is tough business especially people who love to dress up and like to have a large wardrobe. Auroville Free Store seems to me the solution to that problem.
Free Store is a place where one can bring their used/unused clothes, makeup, jewellery, accessories. One can either use it to donate things they don’t use anyone so someone else can use them and/or take/borrow things from their instead of buying from outside.
The thing that was especially interesting was a section for warm clothing. Auroville is close to the coast (sections of it by the coast), and is most part of the year warm. One does not need heavy duty clothes that are used once in a blue moon in cold places. Free store allows one to take such warm clothes needed for likely a trip. Often time we buy such clothes that are rarely ever used again. It can be put to use better if we have a place for others to borrow it.
Unfortunately, the place is open only Aurovilians and New Comers (people on the way to becoming Aurovilians). It’s an idea that’s easy to replicate though if the ethos of a society are largely in sync.
Fast fashion is a major global polluter and is the second largest polluter of the oceans (number 1 being oil).
Timings: Vary for different sports. Table tennis timings: Tuesday, Saturday from 5 pm to 7 pm
Who can use the facility: Anyone living/staying/working in Auroville
People would say, ‘if you’re determined, you’ll find a way’, but really, having facilities more accessible makes a world of difference. The only times I have been regular with Table tennis (a game I greatly enjoy but not very good at), has been when I had access to the table at my workplace and the other time was in Auroville.
Certitude is a sports facility with a large open ground for football or track sports, badminton court, two tennis courts, a kids park, and a place with three table tennis tables. It’s not only a great place to meet people, make friends but also to keep at a routine.
The expectation from users is that they will help with maintaining the place. At table tennis space, we would clean the tables with soap water once a week. Most people also had their bats and would replenish TT balls.
The place oozes with ethos of community living. I’m a fan and I so wish to see such facilities accessible to more and more people across India.
Timings: Starts 7:30 pm (Monday – Indian movie, Wednesday – Interesting movie, Saturday – International movie, Sunday – Kid’s movie)
Location: Next to Matrimandir (Auroville financial services compound)
Who can use the facility: Auro card holders
In the Netflix generation, Auroville manages to successfully pull people in from their homes to watch movies from around the world on a large screen. Pre-Covid, movies were screened everyday but after reopening, they moved to 4 times a week of which Sunday are for Kids’ movies.
From the day it opened, I didn’t miss any Saturday for a movie and was not once disappointed. What I especially love about it was it would often screen movie that I personally wouldn’t pick, are difficult to find, and are not from one country alone.
Most movies are screened with English subtitles
Growing up in defence neighbourhood, weekly movie in an open theatre was very much part of my growing up years but I forgot all about when I started living on my own outside the cozy, warm world of Indian defence services. It was only in Auroville that I realised how much I missed it.
Auroville Language Lab
Who can use the Facility: Anyone (prices vary for Aurovilians and guests)
Location: International Zone
Cost (for guests):
- Regular monthly class for 8 classes – Rs. 1400
- Regular monthly class for 10 classes – Rs. 1750
- 10 days intensive – Rs. 2100
- 15 days intensive – Rs. 3900
- 20 days intensive – Rs. 4200
- Private class – Rs. 550 per hour
With a population of over 3000 representing over 50 countries, learning a new language is fairly in demand.
Spanish, French, Tomatis, Tamil, and English are some regular classes.
Timings: 6:30 to 9 am and 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Who can use the Facility: Aurovillians, Newcomers, Volunteers, Registered guests
Location: Kalpana Guest House (Opposite the library)
Cost (for guests): Rs. 250 per month
While Gym is a common facility in many urban spaces, the pricing often makes it inaccessible to many. At Auroville, the reasonable price keeps it accessible. The users are requested to choose a 45 slot that keeps it from being crowded (this is flexible though, many people use the gym for about an hour).
There’s also a trainer who helps you establish a routine and correct postures. It’s a small gym with basic equipments but the central location and affordability makes it one of my favorite facilities.
Apart from these Auroville facilities/units, there are many other things that I love about Auroville like the greenery, sustainable living ethos, dirt roads, but these five are my top favorites that I wish get replicated around the world in all residential neighbourhoods.