Friday, February 14, 2014




We recently spent a few days in Pondicherry [Flickr Link}, first work, then relaxing, and I’m happy to report it lives up to its hype as a chill, serene location for absorbing the French vibe. It was once the capital of “French India”, and as such you see remnants in the form of signage, street names, architecture in the French Quarter, and, drum roll please, its restaurants and pastry shops.  It’s on the coast so there’s that beauty as well, along with a long boardwalk cum promenade.  All in all, it provided us a welcome respite from the horn-honking rush of thousands of people we typically get from an Indian city.Pondicherry is also known as the home of the Sri Aurobindo Society, a philanthropic group based on the teachings and work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother that have as a guiding belief a system they termed “Integral Yoga”.  We visited Auroville, an ashram built on a unique spiritual concept revolving around offering work as a divine offering.  No rituals, no obligatory meditation, no practices of a certain religion.  [I especially liked the un-religion aspect that includes anyone, even non-believers.] The activities of the ashram include development of art, culture, and spiritually, besides agriculture and cottage industries. In the center of Auroville is the Matrimandir, a huge geodesic dome where people can sign up to go meditate on their own.  There was some kind of 24-hour check/waiting period that made it impossible for us to get inside, but perhaps the next time.  It was a peaceful place with lots of gardens and plans for lots more.  They seemed like a harmless lot but I really was impressed when I visited a village that the Aurobindo Society is assisting via education.  I visited some classes sponsored by the American Embassy for teenagers, and the setting was a beautiful open space that had been cleared of the massive overgrowth.  The buildings were simple but clean, well-painted, and the children were the same, but no paint.  They were incredibly peaceful and calm for a group


of teenagers, but I believe that’s just because my orientation is the rowdy American variety.
Aurobindo considered an integral education as one of the best means of moulding future humanity. That gets no argument from me, and I drove away from the teaching area, I saw the destitute spaces that served as housing for these students, and I was even more impressed by their cleanliness, their alertness, and their good cheer.  The Aurobindo Society is doing good work, and I was humbled and gratified to be part of it for a short afternoon.

Two additional items for your enjoyment: 

Yuk of the Week:  If you haven’t read Frank Bruni’s Op Ed piece titled Panic in the Locker Room” you owe it to yourself.  It's a hoot, and along with the merriment are some gentle truths.

Also, a final chorus for a favorite American patriot who died last week.  I have used the songs and recordings of Pete Seeger for some 3 or 4 decades in my work, and I never tire of hearing him or the songs, nor did the students, young and older.  He wrote my favorite American ballad, "This Land Is You Land".  Take a few minutes to enjoy some of his best recorded moments at this website:  Don't miss the Obama inauguration video with Bruce Springsteen and his grandson.  It is EPIC, and he looks so damn cute in that plaid shirt and stocking cap!

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