The acute coastal erosion problem we are facing here has made me discover the heavy responsibility of the ports everywhere in setting up the erosion process, by interrupting the natural flow of sand that normally replenishes the beaches along the coasts all year long. The accelerated beach erosion noticed in the last decades on most coasts of the world is usually blamed on the sea level rising due to the so-called ‘global warming’, but actually the main cause of the erosion is the blind, avid multiplication and expansion of ports, done in most cases without applying the measures that would protect the beaches.
Humanity obviously needs both ports and beaches, so a balance must be re-established and kept between the two for the true overall benefit of the Earth’s populations.
But this would be only the first step needed, the first and most urgent problem being addressed; another one is coming close second, that we have to be careful about as well: while protecting the beaches, ‘developing’ those beaches shouldn’t mean simply giving free rein to yet another form of economical greed and abuse of Nature’s gifts, the only difference being that it would lead this time not to ever more ports but to ever more luxury ‘Beach Resorts’ filling up the coastal landscape with concrete buildings.
India is at least trying its best to avoid the West’s past mistakes in this regard, by forbidding permanent constructions close to the shore, and it is a good thing, but perhaps another approach could be tried too, that in Auroville is being tried:
In Auroville we are learning to use lighter materials and techniques for the living quarters and the collective facilities needed here in Repos, directly near the ocean, in order to welcome there the Aurovilians and Guests from other parts of Auroville; many of these people are coming from the West, know how to swim, surf, etc, and understandably want to go on having those healthy activities in their life here too.
But for the future of all this to be environmentally sustainable, the luxurious lifestyle that has been artificially linked with all these beach various modes of enjoyment must disappear to a large extent, for this lifestyle is merely an unnecessary accretion added to activities that could very well be practiced at a fraction of the cost by the innumerable simple people who don’t care about a status statement and just want in their leisure time to enjoy the beach and those beach sports they love.
For India itself too the same change of attitude towards the beaches and their use would be very beneficial, I would think.
During the forty years I have been living on and off here on the Auroville seaside, it has been so depressing to see in the water only the fishermen, who do that mostly for a living, rarely for pleasure: it isn’t part of the culture.
Besides them and us beach-lovers from Auroville, the only other persons to ever come on the beach were other Indian males, in their forties, winding their way out of some nearby restaurant, a bottle of alcohol still in their hand, all looking not for the great sight of the ocean, but for the great sight of the Western women in bikini they had been told could be seen on this beach. Our poor lifeguards had more often than not to save those inebriated males from drowning, for, being drunk, they forgot that they didn’t know how to swim, and they blithely went into the waves anyway.
There has been a time when these types came here from far away by the bus load, or were brought right here by the local taxi or autorickshaw drivers. How charming.
Then there has been the even worse phase of the crowds of younger guys arriving in groups on their bikes from Pondy or surrounding villages and taking pictures avidly with their cellphones of any bikini girl in sight, to put them up later on various Internet sites. How charming again.
Well, all this is starting to change.
It is such a pleasure for me to watch now more and more Indian people coming to the beach just for the sheer genuine enjoyment of being in the ocean, those who can’t swim playing at least with the waves. The girls too do it, and even the ladies in sarees can be seen out there, making a stronger line by holding hands while standing bravely and letting themselves cheerfully be drenched again and again by each coming wave, everybody laughing their head off and screaming with excitement and delight.
What happened??? How did such a change take place???
Well, there is another beach place, not yet known by outsiders, where since more than a year most of the girls in bikini from Auroville itself find a more discrete refuge. After the cyclone (end of December), for several months the sight of any bikini at all has become rare here – and so have the drunken or cellphone equipped voyeurs. Simple, isn’t it?…
Beginning of July, when the violent waves of June that have eroded things so badly here finally quieted down (my deepest thanks again to all those of you who helped inwardly for that), the very next Sunday, bright and sunny, was the first time I saw a big Indian crowd having genuine fun out there.
What an illuminating sight.
As I watched them, amazed, in their innocent mass revelry, it dawned on me that perhaps our Western way of wearing smaller and smaller swimsuits to go swimming just wasn’t right here.
Tanning is an obsession in India like in the West, but in the reverse way, rather amusing to see for the Westerner I still am in this kind of superficial outer habits: here no one wants to tan, everyone tries on the contrary to become whiter, and all the ads you see for beauty products, even for men, must claim that the product makes your skin also fairer!!! So no one here is seen lying down on the beach, as uncovered as possible, and as exposed to the sun as possible. That all those Westerners wish to become sun-tanned is quite incomprehensible for an Indian person.
I suddenly remember that not so long ago, we Western ladies didn’t want to tan either, and large hats as well as umbrellas were not only fashion items, but beauty musts too for any refined lady not wanting to ruin her delicate rosy complexion…!
I am not mocking either attitude, mind you, because I have been there too on both sides in one lifetime or the other, but still, how laughable it all is: it’s only a question of the current fashion, all fashion implying that people feel they must follow it or be socially disgraced and ostracized…
Our evolutive future will free us from this collective compulsion: more focused on our own individual uniqueness, and respecting and appreciating that of others too, each one of us will value genuine self-expression more than any dictated fashion.
In Auroville it is already visibly that way, you see as many styles of dressing as you see individual Aurovilians. It is a small thing, but still, already quite liberating, I must say!
The interesting phenomenon that happened next on this beach is that the few Westerners that did come here recently, either were wearing swimsuits, but not being too many, they blended in all right nevertheless; and the others felt by themselves that after all they too could swim in ordinary clothes, just as most of those Indian people were doing, and they gleefully did the same!!!
So the whole scene has changed quite a lot, compared to what it was in the past. I am still digesting the lessons that it seems to indicate as to how to use this beach in the best fitting manner as Aurovilians, supposed to somehow ‘give the good example’ always…
The real problem is not so much the way we human beings dress, but the presently excessive and unhealthy focus most of our societies have developed over sexual matters and the freedom to be left or not to women, of dressing the way they want, just as men are mostly allowed to (still within limits of course) in most countries.
It is not by chance that for the time being beaches, not only in India but more or less everywhere in the world, are seen as the places where you can ‘let your hair down’ and allow yourself more freedom than in other social circumstances. A sunny beach is the very symbol of holidays for most of the Western world, and that is only natural, and perfectly okay. But because of that ever spreading influence everywhere through the invasion by male Westerners looking for exotic pleasures their euros or dollars can buy, poor countries that used to be self-respecting and respectable are now falling to the degrading lure of ‘sex-tourism’. Sex and drugs are what Westerners are more and more known as wanting, and what they are more and more automatically offered wherever they go.
I am really ashamed that this is what our culture is presently doing to all those other cultures.
In India there is since long Goa, but there at least that tendency is somehow softer, less depraved. There remains still something of the idealism of the Sixties and of the Hippies who started it all in Goa. But now the way some other beaches in other parts of India are already busy catering unquestioningly to the Westerners’ and other tourists’ most common wants is quite alarming. It is a rush for money first, even if it comes at the cost of the most honored traditional values. And money itself, one can see it all the way up to the so-called highest levels of our societies, is almost invariably used for easy sex again, at the risk of the scandals no politician or businessman is immune to.
Here itself, right on the other side of our fence, in the guest-houses hastily built both by some local villagers and by some rich Pondy developers, the same downward trend is there.
All this is going so fast, it is frightening.
How can the presence in this area of a growing city as special as Auroville help slow down this trend?
How can we show some other way to make use of beaches, than this so sad and utterly distorted way?
One more challenge, then, that Auroville has on its plate: not only the physical erosion, but the erosion of the human beings themselves and their life-style, because of the wrong way the ‘globalization’ of our world has been happening until now.
It is not yet over though, Evolution will not let us wallow much longer in this disastrous collective muddy ditch!
Let’s try already to do whatever we can here, in those little Auroville places on the beach, to show another way…
There is a very different, specific trend of tourism that has spontaneously developed around these two linked spiritual centres that are the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, and Auroville just nearby in Tamil Nadu. The kind of tourists who flock here are mostly not the same as those who go to Goa or to Kauvalam. They want a different atmosphere, one that is elevating and conducive to the meditations and spiritual states those special tourists are after. Many, from abroad as well as various parts of India, are disciples of Sri Aurobindo and Mother since long, old friends of the Ashram and Auroville – and for some of them, friends specifically of Repos too…
And there are now these young adults, again from all parts of India but the younger generation, preferring to come to the simple life in Repos’ humble Guest-Huts, rather than to the usual Beach Resorts or Hotels most other youth go to… Some of them get so interested also in the new way spirituality is being lived here, they are following this blog as well..!
So let’s do our best, all together, to keep the new atmosphere of this place protected from the intrusion of the unwanted kind of tourists! As the Mother put it so simply, defining actually criteria that make all the difference, making people sort themselves out automatically:
‘Are invited to Auroville all those who thirst for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life.’
These are the ones who are also welcome to Repos!