Friday, December 18, 2015

Sadhana Forest Auroville - Friday - Listening and Volunteering

I am waiting at the highway toll gate for a community member from the Sadhana Forest, Auroville to come pick me up. I look out into the distance. A man and a little girl ride towards me on a bike. They notice that I have a backpack and drive towards me. Their bike stops in front of me. The man introduces himself. Then the little girl introduces herself. I tell them my name.  I sit on the bike and we are off. I wish that was how most introductions went. All you need from another person is their name. I wish people did not ask you about your work, background, family life, and then would judge you based on how you answered these questions

 A few kilometers down the highway, the bike then moves onto the dirt road. Bump - boom - bump -boom, goes our bike. I just hope I don't fall off the bike and embarrass myself. Slowly the trees, become less and the desert like shrubs start appearing. The dirt road seems endless, and then the houses also start disappearing. Five minutes later, we are at the entrance of Sadhan Forest. A broken down door, with a, 'Welcome to Sadhana Forest' sign is observed at the entrance. I was finally here.

R takes me to the community lounge area or community common space hut and then leaves. I just sit and wait. It is quite comfortable. There are cushions around the room and the structure is made of bamboo and wood. Pictures of volunteers adorn the walls. I see a Sadhana Forest rule book put on a stand on the wall. I pick it up and try and understand how the community works. People keep walking into the hut and walking out of it. I see more huts in the distance. I think they are were the cots are places as mentioned in the rule book. I spend the afternoon, just walking around the main hut and smiling at fellow volunteers.

It was friday at Sadhana. The was a public event held here every Friday. At 2 pm, me, a lady from France, a student from Canada, a man from Hungary and another man from Turkey gather together in one room of the main hut. We have come together for our volunteer briefing. A veteran member of the community would collect our meal payments, allot us cots, give us a tour of the Forest, and answer any unanswered questions we had.

L, was from France. She was in India for a while. She told us about her love for travel. She was just back from a two month trip around New Zealand with her boyfriend. G left Mumbai at the age of 20. His family decided to shift to Toronto, Canada. He studied computer science and programming for 6 years at university and was now here in Sadhana on a sabbatical he had decided to take. Twas from Hungary. He worked in a corporation back home. He spent four years in Mumbai growing up. He was nostalgic about his time there. He was here in Sadhana because he had a few months off from work and wanted to take up some volunteering opportunities. H was from Germany. He told me he spent a few years in the army and he also worked as a journalist for a while. So these were my first friends in Sadhana. We spent most of the first day together. I sat in on multiple volunteer briefings.

In the evening, I also sat in on the Guest Briefing event and then attended the film screening.  I got to know more about my new friends in this time. People don't have to always be defined by one characteristic. I wish I could spend hours with each one of them, to understand them better. Just because a student, like playing football, it does not mean that football is the only thing he thinks about all day. There is so much more than can define an individual beyond their work, family and passion projects. 

Maybe I needed to listen more. I didn't talk much on that first day. I just listened. There were over a 100 volunteers at the Sadhana Forest and each one had their own unique story. Just listen Abhishek. Shut up and stop talking so much all the time. Just listen. Every Friday, a free organic vegan dinner was offered to the guests that came in for the film screening. I wondered why, would anyone give anyone else anything for free. They didn't even know who I was or where I came from? Why did they accept me without judging me? The people here made me part of their life. All they knew about me was my name and that seemed to be enough. This was a little confusing to understand and assimilate.  This is not right. This is not how the world works. But it felt nice. I slept well that night, the cot was quite comfortable. It felt nice.


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