I’m in Auroville for a few final days before returning to Israel/Palestine. I’ve been coming here for several years now, though usually for a much longer period. This year I decided to spend the majority of my time in Tiruvannamalai.
Auroville is the utopian dream-child of Mira Alfassa, an alternative international township based on the ideas of human evolution by Aurobindo Ghose. Today around 2500 people live here from all around the world, and the community continues to grow. Last year it had its 50th anniversary.
It’s a beautiful and inspiring place, though not everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes I fantasize about living here though I was thinking today that it has rather too many rules – it’s something that Aurovillians themselves sometimes say – rules of entry, rules of conduct, whatever. Otherwise it probably would not preserve its distinct character. I always think that its truly a miracle that the place continues to exist at all.
Auroville may declare itself an international township, and have a kind of unique status, but it must still abide by the laws of India. So, in addition to Auroville’s own painstakingly formulated rules, are the limitations placed on it, and on those who wish to reside here, by the Indian government, with its ever-changing visa immigration laws. On the one hand these are generous, yet on the other restrictive. The number of questions that I was asked in Chennai airport this time made me think that I would not return again to this country. If they wish to ask questions, let them do so before granting the visa, not at the port of arrival, please. I hear of multiple cases in which people are actually turned away at the border or sent back home.
The journalist Robert Fisk once convincingly compared visas to a disease. Of course, that’s just a statement of a privileged white man. I haven’t let border controls deter me from traveling places till now, but I think I’m finally growing weary of them, as well as the accompanying invasion of privacy.