"The youth that never ages"
Archive: A.Y.A in Art & Culture section
AVIS (Auroville Volunteering, Internships & Studies programme) in Education section
The following introduction to Auroville's varied youth dimension is written by Swadha, a youthful member of the website team. She says about herself:
"I was born in Auroville in May 1975, and lived here for 15 years till my family and I decided that we (my twin sister Swaha and I) were missing a lot of schooling and left Auroville on a cool 31st December to reach France on a freezing 1st January. I hated almost everything there, the cold (not only the weather, also the people), the pollution... Anyway, we learnt to live there just like anyone else but, somehow, there was always somewhere in the back of my mind that absolutely certain feeling that one day I'd be back. Not only back ' home', but more in the sense of going back to some place of which I could say: "This is how I want to live" and actually see it happen! Now it's been two years that I'm back. I tried 3-4 jobs and found one that interested me more than usual: working with the website team."
First of all, in the following pages whenever the word 'youth' is mentioned, it refers to the 14-25 year olds, although we all know that, in Auroville, "youth never ages".
We are about 220 young Aurovilians living more or less together in the city. As of to date, December 2000, out of these 99 are Indian (mostly coming from the surrounding villages), 103 are European (Europe as a continent), 12 are from America (south as well as north) and 4 are Australian.
One of the main things that you have to know about youth here is that, because we are such a mixture of cultures, ideas and backgrounds, we obviously cannot always all get along with each other. For young people visiting Auroville it's one of the first things they say: "How can you be so few and so different?"
Auroville is a relatively small town: if you put it in a numbers category, we're only a village. Once you have made your little circle of friends (it doesn't take you long to choose from among the youth around your age anyway) and you have found one or two 'hang-out' places, there's apart from schooling and work not much more to do. We all know each other, and although we have our own personalities, habits and all, we generally live in a common way.
Influenced by TV (modernism!) and teens who regularly come to Auroville from abroad, the new generation aspires more and more to a 'modern' way of living (having nice things to wear, going out to restaurants). The attraction for the West is very much present; more and more youngsters go abroad every year, to study or just for some months to make a little money. But surely all are waiting to see what the rest of the world is all about! When you reach there, everything is so different, big, material. It depends on your state of mind how you experience it. Maybe it's just that "homely spirit" that is missing, but somehow it's just not what you expected it to be!
Now we also have to admit that the way we (the youth that were born here or lived here most of their young lives) are treated by our 'elders' is very kind (meaning trusting). As for the kids who come here at a little older age, they have to prove themselves to the youth and to the community before doing anything else. And that's usually unfair for them. They already have to build a whole new life: new school, new house, new friends (being accepted by others who already have a strong common past). And they have to adapt to the climate and adjust to so many more things, which makes it sometimes hard to feel good here in the beginning.
The influence of the outside world is one of the things that divide Auroville's youth: Some can go abroad and others cannot. When you do go, you live in a different way for some time and you might actually like 'that' way, just like some westerners like the 'Auroville way' and come here and settle. As we are a kind of melting pot (nationalities, ages, cultures..) and grow with a lot (too much?) of freedom, we all have our own choices to make. Sometimes we feel that none of the available infrastructure is corresponding to our needs, desires, whatever. So some of us create a new workshop, or a school or other organisation to make sure that the right thing is there for us.
Schools are obviously one of the places where youngsters go, that specific place where you can learn. In After School, Last School, there is no evaluation, no judgment done. In fact, apart from in CFL (Centre for Further Learning) and After School, you're not submitted to any exam at the end of the year. You learn because you want to. Recently, Superschool was created for people of all ages, from 7 to 77, who want to learn and study Mother's and Sri Aurobindo's writings.
But here again, diversity comes in and some kids don't like that way of studying and need a more structured curriculum, more rules. They go to the Lycée Français in Pondicherry, or to Kodaikanal High School, or take correspondence courses. There are also young people who don't find their way in school and want to start working straightaway. Many units and services in Auroville are open to train youth who have enough will to go and ask them. And once again, for those who don't find what they need in the already existent working spaces, they can create their own work… Auroville is full of possibilities for those who have ideas!
There are also quite a few young mothers now (the second generation is making the third one!). They can meet in the Pre-Crèche or at the sports ground (more and more facilities are available for babies).
Last but not least, some youngsters don't seem to find their fields of activity in Auroville yet and just 'hang out' in different places, helping here and there, playing music, socialising in coffee shops or reading, 'surfing' on the net, spending time, waiting for the right thing to come up!
So, that's about it for a general introduction to youth. In the following pages you'll find out more about us.
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