Toilet Matters (Toilet does matter)

Toilet and bathroom are two of my favourite places in home.. While doing my business in the Toilet, I get some of my best creative ideas. Therefore, my post is dedicated to this subject.

Rewind 50 years in India… My father, who is 64 now says that he used to go in pit toilets dug by his father (my grand father)… A pit is actually linear.. about 5 feet long, 1 ft wide and 1 ft deep dug in the backyard. A temporary shelter would be put up around it for privacy. Every time after doing business, it would be covered with sand from a bucket. This would continue until the whole pit got filled (which usually took few days with a family of 8 children). In the mean time, my grand father would dig another pit and keep it ready for next use. This was the case in remote villages where my grand father used to work as head master, and his family used to accompany.

My grand mother is from Chennai and she had a different story to tell regarding their Toilets in Chennai. A toilet would have a separate entrance for the cleaners to empty with buckets from outside, since the sewage system was not in place in those days.

Unlike the modern days, where going to a toilet is as simple as pressing the flush button.. For several Indians going to Toilets was really a matter until 2-3 decades ago. Since they did not have Toilets at home they had to go to far off places in waste lands in early mornings. Most finished their business before the day started because of privacy reasons…. since it was not a good sight walking across the street holding a “lota” full of water after day began.

Coming to the present days… all waste matter goes to the sewage system, which either ends up in rivers (if your city is next to a river) or sea (if your city is next to the sea). If our city is next to the river, we may think it is the city that is downstream that suffers. Most of the times, we are also downstream to another city.. This way, we are also affected. Every time we cross a river to enter we city, we usually find a sewage canal instead of a river.. Similar case with sea aswell.. The waste pollutes the beaches where we take bath. Lets take a stroll of about 1-2 km from our popular beach and we will find brown water entering into the sea.

Waste pollution into the sea

Is there any other option, we might ask… I say, there may be one depending on what on how serious we are about it.

I am currently living at International House at Auroville. Here we have “Compost Toilets”. The concept is to compost the “poo” matter and use it as organic matter which is a good manure. Once it is composted properly, it loses its smell and is a very fertile matter for the plants. Great idea, is n’t it..? Compost toilets if used with proper care (i.e. put saw dust on poo right after use and cover it well) do not smell. There may be a slight whiff for those sensitive noses… but considering that your poo does not go wasted, and that it is used in the most effective manner right in the beginning instead of polluting the water sources gives me the right incentive to enter the “Compost Toilet” with a smile..(Pictures of the compost toilet will be posted soon..).. Oh by the way, our urine also gets reused here. In the Toilets there is a separate place to collect urine which then goes through weed beds for processing, and then to the plants as organic fertiliser.

Western style Compost Toilet At International House, Auroville
Western style compost toilet for solid waste
 
Western style compost toilet for liquid waste

 

Saw dust used to cover solid waste
Indian style compost toilet

 

If you are feeling yucky about solid and liquid waste being for plants, know that it is an organic fertilizer that plants relish and provide the best results. They will thank you for doing this to them. If you use Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides, they will not relish it – be sure about that. Would you love to eat fruits and drink juice every day, or would you like to eat vitamin tablets and drink vitamin drinks every day..? You know the answer…

So.. if you want to try out building a compost toilet in the backyard of your village or your second home bungalow, I say.. Go for it…

There are several options online for building compost toilets, or you can contact several establishments in Auroville who have pioneered this. Send me a message if you need help..

Happy Toileting..

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International House

At Auroville, we are currently living at International House which is near by Visitor’s Center, and next to Tibetan Pavilion (it was earlier called as American Pavilion – in case you need to ask for directions). The care takers here are B (a veteran Aurovilian) and the family of Manu, Garima and their Daughter Aiyana.

At International House, there is an office where Manu, B and team work on Architecture related projects to meet the housing needs of Auroville. One such project is about Dismountable houses. Prototypes about such houses are currently displayed on boards at Townhall office. All of them are quite interesting to look at.  Then plan is to build the different houses as per needs of future owners in one large area. The area will have common facilities to share, but each unit will have its own character and charm. I am sure the place where the houses will be built will be an attraction in itself.

At International House, the team has been involved with Tetrapak roofing aswell.

Since the last time we visited the place in Aug-Sep 2010, we found several changes in Auroville and International House. Roads are being improved with interconnecting blocks that reduce the dust on the road. I also think this makes the vehicles run smoother, thereby reducing the fuel pollution overhead.

Specific to International House, I see two new patches of vegetable gardens and several flower plants. Next to where we are staying, there is new construction in progress to build more volunteer quarters.

Unlike the cities where construction means a lot of noise pollution, use of heavy machinery (use of diesel, smoke emissions etc.,) as well as cement/sand dust.. We find that construction here is manual labor oriented with everyone working in rhythm. I  hear someone filling a basket with sand and nothing more.

Energy wise, International House uses solar energy for most of the internal consumption (such as fans, lights, office equipment etc.,). There is a washing machine, refrigerator and kitchen mixer that are run on line-electricity as required.

We are living in Volunteer quarters, and our main activities here include looking after the garden, publishing updates to website:https://internationalhouseauroville.wordpress.com/ and being involved with a new schooling project AHA Auroville (http://ahaauroville.wordpress.com). I am sure we will find many more exciting things to get involved (main reason why we are here in Auroville).

A few pictures of International House are attached for those who are not familiar with the place.

 

more to follow..

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Namaskaaram

Baagunnaara (in telugu it means “how are you doing”)..

This is the Raj, Aparna and our 4 year old daughter Sambhavi. We moved recently from Mumbai to be a part of Auroville. Aparna and myself were born and raised in Andhra Pradesh, and spent some of our worklives in India and USA. Andhra Pradesh is the neighbouring state to Tamil Nadu.  Both myself and Aparna are with IT background but with passions in Sustainable and meaningful living & Child Education. Sambhavi loves to ask questions and explore. Sambhavi has made several friends during our last visit in Sep 2010, and her circle of friends is expanding every day.

As a family, we do a little bit of every thing. We love to read stories together, work in the garden, play music (music to us, don’t know what others may feel though.. ) and so on. Aparna loves to take lots of pictures, and I do a little bit of that too.

Every new day brings us new experiences, which I hope to share with you.. You can also visit my personal blog http://rawelements.wordpress.com/ to follow a few other posts.

Ika untaa mari (in telugu, it means “bye for now”)

Raj

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Happy farewell

Yeap! That’s it. Our last day, my last post. And his LAST INSTRUMENT! He has named it “hexpirocordio” (‘hex’ for hexagon, ‘spiro’ for spiral, and ‘cordio’ for strings). It arrived at the International House just on time for the farewell party we threw.

Here it is…

Leonardo and the hexpirocordio

Garima experimenting the vibration while Leonardo is playing

The 7 chakra coloured glass box

And I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of Leonardo and I, to thank specially everyone at the International House (Manu, Garima, B and Aiyana) for all their loving support and for offering us such an incredible chance to expand our beings.

And we also want to send a big hug to all the friends and people  in Auroville who have made us feel like home during these 2 months and a half!

THANK YOU, EVERYBODY!!

 

B, Garima, Matilde and Aiyana at the farewell party

Aloe and Hanna

Marc, Clara, Eden and Laura

Juan Felipe, Leonardo, Mahesh, Ralph and Gnanvel

Alejandra, Monica and Manu

Carme, Matilde, Aurelio, Alejandra, Clara and Robin

And the fire, the sound of a flute and nice company...

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The power of Nature

Just two days left to go back to Spain… There are so many things we have experienced, felt, transformed, enjoyed, shared, learned… It would be almost a never-ending post today if we were to recall all of them!

Gorgeous hibiscus...

But one of the most striking things I’ve been able to admire here, and that has been surprising me every single day (and which, somehow, summarizes them all) is the incredible power of Nature.

Working in the Garden project at the International House has offered me the huge opportunity to be in contact with Nature first hand, to be more aware of it, more attentive to it, more willing to listen to and learn from it. And what a perfect place to experience all that: a barren plateau turned into a lush forest!

Summer is already here, so this last week we haven’t been planting anything else in the IH garden. Now it’s time to protect the soil from the summer heat (mostly by mulching and watering it) and to prepare it with compost for the planting season. And it’s also time to hope that all that we have been doing will flourish.

Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia, "Physical consciousness entirely turned towards the Divine"

In fact, one of the things that have marveled me the most is the speed at which plants grow here. In these 2 months we’ve been witnesses of Nature’s amazing drive to expand.

This morning, I went around the garden and took pictures of some of the flowers, plants and trees we planted at the beginning of our stay here. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words…

February 26th. Planting a tiny plant. Can you see it...?

April 9th. Quite a big plant now, uh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to close, and as a farewell gift, some wise words from The Mother…

Have you ever gone into a garden early in the morning? The flowers are facing the sun, awaiting its advent. Have you felt the mighty aspiration that surges all around for the coming light?
Have you watched a bud, completely closed, and how slowly, miraculously, the petals open, one by one? Whence came this force, this energy, this pulsating life?

Have you seen the earth after it has received a few drops of rain. Multi-coloured little hands come out from the earth in a gesture of thanks giving? They are the fairy-lilies named ‘Prayer’ by the Mother. We can palpably feel the vibration of gratitude and we look in joy at this spontaneous and beautiful response of Nature. Nature, so receptive, so open to the Grace! If only we could be likewise….

And then we wonder: What is it that gives to a flower and so often to a child, its beauty, its sweetness, its feeling of a happy self-giving? It is the presence of the Divine in the flowers, in Nature. It is what we call the ‘Psychic Presence’. And love. Love of flowers can help us to find our own psychic being, the Divine within us.”

The Mother, from Soul of a flower, in “Flowers – Their Spiritual Significance”

 

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The IH on Auroville Radio!

Last week, Yahalom (from Auroville Radio) came with a group of volunteers to the IH as part of a Volunteer Orientation Tour, and learned about the construction of the new building and the musical wall project.  He threw out the idea of doing some recording for the Radio.

No sooner said that done: yesterday, Miriam (one of the journalists of Auroville Radio) came to the International House to interview us. She interviewed Manu, Leonardo and I, and she recorded Leonardo playing the wall instruments. She made us feel very comfortable and we had a very nice chat (about the International House itself, about the instruments project and about our experience in Auroville as volunteers).

Curious about what was said…? You can click on the following link and hear the interviews and the instruments!

 

AUROVILLE RADIO INTERVIEW!


And just a little photo update on the hexagon instrument: the 34 strings are already installed and the iron structure and the axle that will support the whole thing, and enable it to turn, are ready to be fixed to the wooden rectangular base.

The iron structure and axle

And finally... the strings!

The strings through the hexagonal resonance box

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We are almost there!

Everything seems to be supporting Leonardo to finish his last instrument before we go, although you can tell he feels a little bit uneasy at times.

The 7 glass pieces for the candle box

Yesterday we went to Aureate, Hans Isler’s glass studio. Hans is as Swiss man who arrived in Auroville 30 years ago and who has been deeply involved in the gilding and glass work of the gold disks that make up the outer structure of Matrimandir.

He very kindly cut 7 different pieces of colored glass for us: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and white, which correspond to the 7 main chakras in our body. As I explained in previous posts, Leonardo is going to make a candle box with them to be used as a reference point by the person sitting on the turning hexagonal instrument. The glass box will be a revolving device, so that the person can decide what color to look at, depending on the chakra they would like to heal or unblock.

Leonardo showing the instrument to some visitors

So, as Leonardo was telling some visitors at Svaram this morning,  this instrument will combine sound, movement, color and fire (the candle). Four powerful healing elements: the vibration of the strings going straight into our cells; the vibration of color, to which our chakras are so responsive; the turning around (used by sufis, among others) to quiet our mind, so that we can be more open to healing; and the purifying properties of fire, which cleanses our aura when we are near it.

I was quite impressed, all the sudden, when I realized the magnitude of it all…

Won't that look beautiful in the new IH Dormitory?

And just 4 days left to install the 34 strings, to build the candle glass box and to anchor the instrument to the iron support.

I can feel the excitement and the joy of a big upcoming event… I think we’ll make it!

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