Friday, 5 September 2014

Afsanah @ Auroville: A Zen Experience

Long walks at sunrise on sandy beaches, fishermen returning from the sea with their boat loads of fresh catch, sun languidly breaking out from the depth of the sea, family bonding, catching sea fish, collecting sea shells, catching sun rays with both hands, making sand castles and in the evenings and late nights sit by the sea and listen to the music created by the splashing sea waves trying to catch up with the shore yet failing to hold on to it every time. Like lovers, it does not want to let her go. Living in a Zen cottage, hiring scooter for the day to pick up wood fired fresh pizza from the Italian pizzeria, living in an utopian town, breakfast by the promenade, staying in a large French mansion, home cooked delicacies served by the ladies for breakfast, tasting creole cuisine, walk on the cobbled stone tree lined streets, buying bag loads of french perfumes and oils from Laboratoires Senteurs, Life of Pi moment, getting blessed by the elephant. Well, my family and I had one such holiday this summer in Pondicherry and Auroville.

Auroville, the utopian city created by Sri Aurobindo and his band of followers on the small stretch of barren land on the east coast of Tamil Nadu has certainly attained a certain fame for its green environment, simple yet elegant dwellings, maximum use of local and natural materials in construction of these houses. The creative pursuits of its global inhabitants lends extra sheen to its fame. This abode of serenity where ''time takes a break'' and the adjoining French town of Pondicherry are too enticing to be given a miss. This summer we gave time a break, will you.

Afsanah Guest House, one of the finest housing enclave in Auroville has been conceptualized by Afsanah Bader, a graceful Iranian lady and created by the German architect Poppo Pingel. This was my oasis at Auroville during our sojourn this summer. The guest house complex spread over few acres is covered with tall old trees, manicured green lawns, concrete pathways meet water bodies at every nook, plants and shrubs of diverse variety creates a zen atmosphere. The cottages built in the Japanese architectural idiom with shoji screens, low bed and foldable room partitions are functional and yet comfortable. 

The Guest House plaque at the enclave entrance and the driveway sets the tone of experience that a resident is going to live during the stay at this tranquil abode. cottages are well spread to provide privacy and own space to anybody who cares to take refuge here. Soul and body feels like a free bird, free to swing, flow with the cascading waterways chirp around or just lie still and do nothing like the baby tortoise. Simply hibernate! There are plenty of nooks in the enclave to do what one wish to: sit under the tall tree by the rugged Ganesha idol and read your favorite book or else walk to the zen rock enclosure and meditate and be with the Nature. And when the hunger pangs came calling, head to the nearby restaurants which has global food to offer. You may want to walk out or else call for a scooty which is available from the Auroville taxi service.  

Auroville is functional and grounded. This signboard of Naturellement, garden cafe is known for its fruit preserves and small bites. Martina Ljunqquist, a Swedish founder started this as a social enterprise in 1991 and today it has created a niche market for its fruit preserves. Open from 9 am to 5 pm from Monday through Saturday, the cafe can be reached on (0413) 262 2034 / 262 3267. 

The stone pathway leading to one of the cottages at Afsanah Guest House. The complex abounds in similar habitat zones. 
Another path leading through the green lawns to the cottage.

Large stones and boulders of all shapes abound here, so do flowers of different hues.

Footloose at Afsanah.

The place dons magical cloak when the night descends here. At night it is the crickets, birds and insects that rule over. Humans take shelter in the confines of cozy cottages vacating the vast land for the nightly creatures to lord over the place. The guest house advisory requests the residents to keep cottage doors close at all times and not to venture out at night without torch or lamp. Scary !

The garden leading to the Naturellement Garden Cafe

View from the cottage verandah. These ladies keep the place well manicured at all times

Japanese Cottage interior. The free flowing layout, shoji screen creates partition between the sleep area and the common area. The four walls are also made of shoji screen. High ceiling, functional and low furniture and tasteful lighting provides functional comfort. Luxurious - no.   


     Cozy cottage sit and the day bed laid out here is just perfect for those moments stolen from time.

    The dining hall is simple and clean and ideal for starting the day with a hearty breakfast prepared
    from organic products.

              The place blends beautifully the elements of nature - earth, water, air, fire and sky. 
Coordinates: Afsanah Guest House,  Kottakarai area of auroville. Located at approx 1.5 kms from the Matrimandir. Cottages and rooms with air condition and ensuite bathroom. Baskar, the genial caretaker is your go to man here. He will keep appearing from nowhere like a genie when you need him. Contact Baskar or  Afsaneh at or call them on 0413-2622048 / 2622108 / 9345400700 / 9943644435.