Leap Now Weekend
On February 28th 2004, Auroville celebrated its 36th birthday with the Leap Now Week-end . The event followed a successful dawn bonfire now firmly cemented as a community institution for many birthdays to come.
The external-combustion powered dawn meditation gathered the usual Aurovilians, friends and some new guests, including a visiting Rainbow tribe, complete with flag.
Later, a brilliant new year sun rose over a Certitude reborn. The 'inner-city' afternoon sport Mecca now shone with repainted white volleyball court boundaries and shamelessly flaunted three new basketball nets. Revised parking arrangements aimed to shepherd the daily gathered pool of two-wheelers away from sporting events, with partial success.
No sooner than naysaysers had dismissed the event as unjustifiably dust-generating, did Sukrit's slick road team water-sprinkle the Solar Kitchen-Certitude Highway, guaranteeing breathable air at least until lunch. Event organiser and father-to-be, Martanda would allow no red clouds to spoil his three weeks' preparation for the big day. For ‘twas a celebration of dust.
Dirtball constituted the focal activity of the two-day festivities and culminated in a mighty clash of Auroville titans. Dirtball, this odd abbreviation of fully-grown basketball saw teams of three compete in desperate, dirty, 20-minute half-court matches. Ragged and sweaty, players fell by the way over two days of elimination matches, to produce a nail-biting final between Team Auroson and Team Nouï. The result left Nouï's Team benevolent and beamingly confident that points didn't really matter.
Saturday's program also tantilisingly advertising "Games" at 3pm. With punctuality teachers only dream of, fifteen hysterical fun-hungry children explosively materialised at the published hour, under Certitude's acoustics-on-steroids concrete dome. There, a small crowd gathered to watch odd things take shape. Small, focused bodies wound their way through a hijacked soccer goalpost and string spider-web obstacle-course complete with alarm. A small brass puja bell held precariously between the taught strands, rang at the slightest nudge from five and 45-year old elbows alike. As the sun dipped below punishing levels, a massive four-way tug-of-war mobilised all those who felt themselves insufficiently dusty, sweaty and manually challenged. After two epic battles, a rope no shorter than a kilometre remedied their shortcomings. Four variously-sized but surpisingly well-matched teams of around ten, fought to gain barefoot traction in two inches of red dirt. They all aimed to drag the ropes' intersection beyond the borders of a large square drawn in the dust and in the end, some did, but suddenly noone cared who.
Grit-infused and desperately thirsty, the rope-warriors had caught wind of watermelon. There, between a small mountain of coconuts and green melon, Ashok fed these desperate animals pink fruit and nut milk. Calm reigned until thirst-slaked camaraderie devolved into watermelon peel war. Snipers took up positions and surgically dispatched unwitting targets with fructose projectiles. Ground troops returned fire while civilians ran for cover.
Visible through the day's dying embers, Ananda, Kalu and team lugged six thunderous speakers into place for the evening spectacular - the fire dance . The crowd that gathered to witness their feats of pyrotechnic acrobatics swore they saw fire dance that night.
On the other side of town a different kind of performance prepared itself. The Genius brothers welcomed a new generation of performers to reincarnate as The Genius Family on the Visitors' Centre stage. Boasting a five-year old cast of thousands, the evening's performance also introduced some visting performers. The show interspersed the voice of Berlin musical singer Francesca with the talents of visting Irish theatre graduate Katja against a backdrop painted live by Sara throughout the two-hour show. The evening's freeform, cattered presentation seemed out of odds with an audience packed well beyond the Visitors' Centre's seating capacity. Humanity occupied every inch of the amphitheatre's surrounding rooves, balcony and even some of the stage.
Leap Now followed three weeks of planning and preparation that included a week of performance workshops for The Genius Family and days of work for all those who watered the roads and prepared Certitude for the party. The final Sunday gave way not only to the final stages of the by then competitvely-enhanced dirtball, it also ushered in something else - a masterpiece of human unity. That day an inter-Auroville, inter-village Volleyball match brought together many individuals for the first time and there, in the dust, under the Sun, Auroville entered its 36th year.
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