Volunteer tourism is the new trend in travel: where you do social service on vacation!
As Volunteer Tourism gets popular, India’s French township of Auroville provides peace and quiet in exchange for jobs
It is 5.50am and my father and I are on our two wheelers, heading towards the organic farm where we are volunteering in Auroville, the French township in Tamil Nadu.
Another hour-and-a-half, and we have neatly arranged 54 packets of rucula in a basket marked ‘dispatches’. In another hour, these packets will be on the retail shelf.
Headed back to our guest house, we stop at the financial service centre to get our Auro-cards topped up. The Auro-card is the only mode of payment for most Auroville bodies. The township has had cashless economy for as long as I have known it.
Visitor’s Center is the first contact point for people on a day trip to Auroville. It has shops with merchandise from entrepreneurs around the area, and information on the town.
Soon our other mealtime friend, an architect joins us. Post-lunch I take a nap, while others sit in the common area with their work. After my siesta, I finish the article I’m working on. My parents take off for Pondicherry, 7kms from Auroville. In the last two weeks, my parents have gone to theway more than I ever have in all my holidays at Auroville.
A table at Solar Kitchen needs to be booked in advance. They take food wastage very seriously: after you are done eating, you bin the leftovers in a trash can, which is then placed on a weighing scale that tells you how much food you have wasted. If you are dubious about a particular food item, they encourage you to try a small quantity first. I am in two minds about the potato and pumpkin soup, and the server offers a quarter of the original quantity. I am glad because it isn’t something I fancy, but I do not have leftover food.
On our way back, we hear a drum-jam session at the African Pavilion. We stop for a little while to enjoy the delightful music; we feel so alive. I sit on a log of wood. Ten minutes later, someone taps me on the shoulder. I need to get up. They need the ‘musical instrument’ I am sitting on.