I could describe my time at Auroville Radio through sensations. It could be the sensation of traipsing barefoot into office in the morning, at ease in this little corner of Town Hall. It could be my ears perking up when someone I meet for lunch provides a startlingly new perspective on Auroville. Or of that smile, the mildly embarrassing one, which comes when you’re sharing inside jokes and side-long glances with your ‘bosses’. It’s the sensation of balancing my backpack with the recording device along with an ungainly camera bag or of protecting my Auroville Radio sticker from the rain at the Film Festival. It is a lot about the sensation of driving; driving on a creaky moped to an event with the breeze in my hair or driving through different editing software and cringing at my own high pitch. Most of all it was about being driven to dip my toes in the pleasant sea foam of conversation.
In our very first meeting, Andrea (who is the coordinator for the Radio) told me that I should push aside notions that I might have about producing content that is commercial or necessarily provocative. He told me to look for soul, and to only work if it came from deep within. After a life-altering stint in December at Buddha Garden, I returned far more critical, my metaphorical rose colored glasses lying broken somewhere among my readings on Marxist historiography. My head was bursting with questions when I arrived here on a rainy September morning, and I was cautious about not allowing myself to instantly jump into a pool of romanticized notions. I had no idea what exactly I was going to do at the Radio, but I came with a resolve to really explore and be able to define a space such as Auroville.
My time here at Auroville Radio is over (for the time being), and I can conclusively say that I cannot define Auroville. This is perhaps because it is still an ongoing experiment, an idea, and means different things to different people. My stint at the Radio, however, enabled me to engage with multiple dimensions of this space. A German exchange student told me that I was “everywhere” and I really felt like I was. I went from taking personal interviews in the shed at Youth Centre to standing outside Cinema Paradiso with the Radio microphone and literally hounding people. I went from talks on marketing and growth to singing festivals and enthusiastic Garba. This wandering provided me with increased perspective, especially since I was engaging at a peripheral level. I did not have to instantly agree or disagree with anything, but in my documentation I could problematize without needing to be essentialist.
It would be hard for me to write an objective piece about working with the Radio and I apologize for this. In my time here, I have engaged with people like Renu and Miriam who have idealism bursting in their veins, nothing is an imposition and everyone deserves to be heard. I have delved too deep into this place where official hierarchies do not exist. Yet this gnawing burden of privilege makes me acknowledge that staying here as a volunteer is a luxury. It is true that the expenditure can be kept minimal and yet it is important that there be less expensive avenues for students and travelers to spend a longer period of time and find even lesser incentive to return home. When I told the coordinators at the Radio about this conundrum, they offered to look into the matter and fund a sort of scholarship for a specific number of interns and volunteers so that they can really participate in a symbiotic experience.
The Auroville Radio Project itself is similar to the larger idea of Auroville in terms of defying exact definition. While it is looking towards becoming a live Radio FM portal, it is currently a multimedia website which records, collects and broadcast the daily events happening in Auroville. The aspect that attracted me the most to it was its relentless documentation and archiving of culturally diverse voices.
I tend to connect it to my obsession with microhistory which attempts to, as Charles Joyner stated, “ask large questions in small places”. I cannot help but get a bit giddy at the thought that there are little independent ventures such as this one, trying to find different ways to tell stories.
Auroville this time round was more overwhelming, with flute lessons at sunset and moonlight rituals on rooftops. It consisted of sustained injuries and an insistence that there is such a thing as an Aurovillean accent. It had heartbreaking conversations over chocolate crepes and abstract sunlight patterns underwater, but that is another story altogether. As of now, with a very heavy heart, it is about saying good-bye and heading back to Delhi for reasons I am not yet sure of. All I can say is, this pit stop during my ‘gap-year’ at Auroville Radio has affected me deeply, and I have learnt crucial things about communication and culture and about myself. A part of me now has really found identification as the ‘Radio Girl’ and I will carry this tag with me wherever I go.
The link to the Auroville Radio website: http://www.aurovilleradio.org/