01.02.2010 - 03.04.2010 35 °C
After the Vipassana course I went back to Pondicherry where Bomi was taking French classes until the end of March. Here's the video I took of them singing the French National Anthem on French Colony day:
I cannot, to my greatest regret, comment on this incredible performance, since Bomi's already going to kill me for putting this online :-D
Since there's not much to do in Pondicherry and I had a bad concience about procrastinating too much (My days in January were spent eating, sleeping, having sex, and watching TV dramas), I decided to do something useful until Bomi's classes were over. So I went to Auroville, the spiritual Mecca of hippies in Southern India, just north of Pondy. Maybe I should mention here that the whole area around Pondicherry is "Mother"-territory. The "Mother" is a French woman who came to India in the early 20th century and, under collaboration with guru Sri Aurobindo, became a local Demigod. Any restaurant, shop, or hotel room you go to in the Pondicherry area you see a picture of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Unfortunately, she was not the most beautiful of women and having these pictures of her looking at you everywhere is creepy at best.
Sri Aurobindo looks a bit less demented in my opinion.
Whatever else the Mother was, she must have been a very charismatic leader as she started the whole Auroville project. Basically it is a village outside of regular Indian administration, where people from all over the world can come and participate in the making of a new society based on some values I didn't bother to read about. But they did an amazing reforestation job. What was just desertic wasteland 60 years ago is now an about 5x5 km large area with forest, lakes, and several villages. I joined the R&D department of the Auroville Center for Scientific Research (CSR) where some inventors and scientists try to adapt new technology for local needs. The main focus is on solar and bio-energy. I decided to work on a project that tried to adapt local algae for waste-water treatment and biofuel production in exchange for free food and accommodation. Here's a picture of my experiment:
The accommodation was a wonderful wooden hut in one of the more remote communities, basically just a floor and a roof, but it is one of the places I enjoyed most during this trip. Here are pictures of the hut, the bathroom, and the kitchen:
One day the minister for alternative energy came from Delhi for a visit. SInce Auroville gets a lot of its funding from his department, this was quite a big event for which everything was cleaned and streets were closed. Here are some pictures of him visiting the CSR under the watchful surveillance of an army of bodyguards:
The minister is the one with the black hat. Talking to him is Alok Mallik, head of the R&D Department of the CSR.
Here are some pictures of Bomi wearing my birthday gift, an Indian Saree. I really like how she looks in it, but she didn't wear it often unfortunately, as it is rather unhandy when riding on any two-wheeled vehicle:
At the Guesthouse in Pondy
These pictures were taken in Auroville. It gives a good general impression of what the place looks like.
At the Auroville beach. During all my stay in Pondycherry I never ventured into the sea. Seeing the canal in Pondy and other waterways in the area took away any enthusiasm about swimming.
This is me in Auroville, again to give you an idea of how succesful the reforestation here was (remember, this was wasteland half a century ago), on a standard TVS 50cc, the most common means of transportation for people who don't want to spend more than one dollar per day. They are not that trustworthy, though, as I must have changed vehicle about 6 times because of breakdowns. I have some very vivid memories of Indian traffic, faulty brakes, and non-functioning light.
Auroville is full of peacocks. I love those birds.
To end this last entry about India (I'm going to miss it!) here are some pictures taken during the Holi Festival (festival of colors) in Pondicherry and one of an Indian marriage Bomi and I were invited to:
The original plan was to leave India for Pakistan and go from there to China. However, this would have used up our last money and we would then have been pennyless somewhere in East Asia. Thus we decided to leave for South Korea instead and try to earn some money there. Not as an English teacher this time, but instead I plan to go back to Science and try to find a job in a University. So, back to South Korea it is, where I'll meet Bomi's family...