Empty rucksack? Is that even a proper name for someone or a couple? Well in their own words “Empty
Rucksack Travelers are two young Indians who have ditched their nine to five to
travel the world. They have been to 22 countries so far and want to see as many
before time and money run out. To know more about them and their travel adventure
read this.”

That was all that I had planned to write for them. And then today morning I happen to have a rather interesting conversation with them (or rather Ishwinder 😀 ) And then over some quick twitter DMs shared we agreed we are now officially best friends lost in space and found by internet. Too many common points and some funny exchanges resulted in this rather quick conclusion! And yes one of them was me carrying O negative blood group (the whole story for another post another time!) 

Now handing over the baton to them, as they review one of their most favoutire guest houses in Auroville.

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Gaia’s
garden – our favourite guest house – a perfect place to grab some
rest and harmony in Aurovillle, a township 6 kms from Pondicherry.

I don’t know
who Gaia is and I don’t care if it really was a garden. You see, I am from
Delhi and I know gardens are no fun. We have Rajouri Garden, Raja garden,
Tagore garden, Dilshad garden (and also our favourite Mayawati ji ka garden in
the NCR). There is hardly a moment of respite from pollution or a visible touch
of greenery in these gardens. Maybe the idea of gardens, vihars and baghs have
fascinated, obsessed and deluded the Delhi planners and residents so much that we
append “garden”, “vihar” or “bagh” to the name of each new colony right from
the time of Karol Bagh. Therefore, my hopes from gardens, to say the least, are
at the level of Delhi’s water table – abysmally low. So I wasn’t expecting
much. 

Having arrived on Chennai airport after a three hour long flight, hour
long traffic jam to get to Delhi airport and a long week in office, I was
tired. What followed further were three hours on the East Coast road on my
husband’s bike to get to Auroville, a township 6 kms from Pondicherry. The ride
would have been spectacular because Vikram had already told me a million things
about the coastline, coconut trees and beautiful vistas of Tamil Nadu’s
countryside but I was more disappointed than pleased because no points for
guessing that at two in the morning after night falls everything is the same as
the colour of black.

I could have
slept anywhere. Why stay here when we are unable to find this place was beyond
me. Vikram already had a booking and it is this place he wanted to stay. What
could a meek Indian woman do at this point rather than growl and shout. During
the day it would have been fine but looking for Gaia’s garden but for someone
who had never been to Auroville before was like looking for pin in a haystack
in the middle of the night. 

Finally, we found it. It was rather quiet. Coming
from Delhi my first tendency is to flee from quiet places, to look for noise
and find the company of crowds. When I hear dogs barking in the dark it freaks
me out further. Vikram held me by hand, as we waited on the gate for Murugan,
the helper at the guest house, to open the gates and let us in. 

We made our way
in through the gates over a gravelled path. I saw greenery around me, a lot of
space and some sculptors in the garden. We approached a white building with bougainvillea
frills lining its walls like tresses falling on a damsel’s face. There was certain
freshness in the air. The room where we were led to was beautiful, smelling of
fresh flowers, open space and greenery. It was simple and special. But I knew
the best was waiting for the sun to show up before it unfolds itself. I knew I
was in someplace spectacular and I had to wait for the morning to discover it. 

Like a little child I fell asleep while trying hard to not sleep.


In the
morning, I woke up and stepped out and found myself in a space sprawling with
trees, happy dogs, slugs, peace and beauty. I understood what both Gaia and
garden meant. Vikram told me over a cup of tea we made at the shared kitchen
that Gaia’s garden was the dream abode of an architect from Netherlands who
built it for himself and his guests after he decided to move to Auroville with
his wife and daughter. 




That was the morning my love affair with Auroville began.
As I walked along the aqueducts that circled all the rooms in the guest house,
I explored the acre wide garden discovering a large fish pond outside the house
of Kireet, the Dutch owner of Gaia’s garden. Yes, he had a special place and in
here he had kept the quietest part to himself. It was enough to just sit and
chase fish swimming in the pools and the ducts, hearing the birds sing and the
leaves dancing to the nudges of wind. 

It was surreal, like being in a dream.


I have
visited Auroville several times since then but as a budget traveller I find
myself unable to afford that studio apartment we had once rented. But I still
go to Gaia’s garden once in a while to check the place and revel in its beauty.
It’s heaven that you must visit.

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