Much has been achieved in these 50 years, some highly visible and some not so. Most stories written about the achievements, concentrate on the visible. And one such highly visible achievement is the tropical evergreen forest.
Thousands of trees were planted and nurtured to turn the red, barren dry land into a veritable jungle. Many Aurovillians will admit that this possibly is the greatest work done here.
Mother wanted 50,000 to live and work together to build the City that earth needs. Mother also said the people from the surrounding villages are the first Aurovillians. It is the locals who are the true builders of the city.
Though in the initial stages they worked shoulder to shoulder with the foreigners such sights are rare today. The locals, with their child-like innocence, accepted the foreigners, however crazy their ideas might have been when they freshly arrived on this barren land and wanted to start building the first community. They taught them their ways of simple living and how to survive on this red, sun-drenched land. They also embraced without questioning the new lifestyles the foreigners brought with them.
They willingly gave or sold their land to Auroville, sometimes for a pittance. And somewhere between the enormous tolerance of the locals and the desperation of the visitors, the communities and the city began to take shape.
The building of Auroville provided employment for the people of the villages of Kuilapalyam, Edyanchavady, Alankuppam, Bomyapalyam, Kotakarai and Irumbai.
The locals who previously subsisted off the land now could work as builders, carpenters, welders and drivers. It also provided employment opportunities for the women who worked as embroiders, domestic help, as tailors, craftswomen, babysitters etc.
So this increase in employment brought with it certain wealth and an improvement in the lifestyles of the villagers. This allowed them to dream their own dreams. Of their children gaining education and travelling further afield to find employment.
Today, the locals are a major part of the Auroville workforce. They are Auroville’s heartbeat. Their efforts, though, remunerated, are what is keeping The Dream alive. Every aspect of Auroville is highly dependent on the locals. But sadly their presence in the upper echelons of the hierarchy is only a sprinkling. In the hierarchy, the foreigners feature at the apex, followed by other Indians and then the locals.
The foreigners are the ones with the ideas; the locals are the workers while other Indians are stuck in between.. If Auroville is to survive another 50 years and more, it will largely depend on its treatment of the local people.
In the preceding 50 years there were plenty of difficulties, with some of the locals taking advantage of the generosity of the foreigners. Land encroachment from the local villagers living next to Auroville lands, politically instigated agitation, stand over tactics etc,. were also a feature.
To realise the ideal of Human Unity, Auroville should begin with a deep introspection of its treatment of the local people. They come with a deep and rich culture that in itself is highly accepting and tolerant and there are many lessons to be learnt from this culture.
Supposedly Mother said that when there is true unity it will snow in Auroville. Snow in Auroville will definitely be a sight to behold.
The writer is teacher, Future School, Auroville