Infinite Souls: Ashram, Auroville, Arunachala

You could say this particular journey began on Dec 31st 2009 as we sighted the Blue Moon at Infinite Souls. You could also say it began 50 years ago with the onset of Paabi’s life-long enchantment with Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri. And that it was nurtured by the tales of Neel’s grandfather, Harindranath Chattopadhya, and Chandralekha watching a comet pass slowly the night that Ramana Maharshi attained Samadhi.

Whatever the genesis, it so transpired that on Jan 17th 2010 we set off again, a rag-tag caravanserai, containing in all 9 adults, 2 babies and a puppy, on our annual pilgrimage to Pondicherry. Our daughter is a Pondy-baby and so finds herself transformed the minute she steps out on Rue Suffrein. She sheds all cares of school and exams and turns into a bare-foot waif with malli poo in her hair, faintly redolent of coconut oil.

But to return to the past for a moment…

What was it you gave us, Paabi, when you started us on this adventure? Is it just the one thing? Your love of car journeys? Or is it that you suggested we take the long route; the crazy, arduous, scenic route. And arrive late. (Stop for a nap on the stone verandah of Chandragiri Palace near Tirupathi, you told us, thus we serendipitously watched the parrots fly home) Or is it that you handed over your obsession with Savitri and trusted that we would make sense of that argument she had with Yama?

“And what are you?” Yama asks Savitri, “A dream of brief emotions, glittering thoughts, a sparkling ferment in life’s sunlit mire? Against the eternal witness, would you claim immortality? Only Death is eternal.

Did you want us to challenge this? Is that why we drove to Goa for your birthday on February 19th just 2 months before you would leave us on May 6th 2006? Ostensibly to check out a colour lab where we could potentially colourize Samskara. We drank champagne and feni, ate at Valerio’s and Souza Lobo… Even at Longuinho’s Bar in Margao as if to stretch the feeling as long as possible…

But back to the present…

There was no room in the inn. Not in Pondy or Auroville, at least not in our usual haunts. So we called Shanthi (Paabi’s nephew) and he said “Come on over.” To all of us! And Mushroom – the Golden Retriever pup!! Easy and utterly hospitable, that’s Shanthi. He has a wonderful pack of dogs, tough-living Brandos to our blonde and booby Marilyn Mushroom. Boxers, Rottweillers and the newest addition - a Great Dane puppy called Thor. (He’s Danish, innit?!) One night the three of us stayed back at Shanthi’s farm. He made us coffee at 6 am before taking Zui out in his canoe for 2 hours on the lake.

It was lovely taking my parents and 4 year old Kai, to the Mother & Sri Aurobindo’s Samadhi. I’m sure Kai felt, as he witnessed the silence and the flowers, another aspect of his heritage. And subliminally got the magic of the moment. And knew that he and us and Paabi and our Savitri play and Shanthi were joined as clearly as in a game of Join the Dots.

I told Kai that Mirra Alfasa came to India and on seeing the young Aurobindo decided to stay on saying to her husband “I have seen in him the Krishna of my dreams.” He listened, wide eyed, as he's really into the Krishna stories that Amma tells him and likes that Krishna’s a naughty boy.

Warm nights at Satsanga, eating prawns and drinking cold beer… Debi drops by and we yearn to listen to him play.

When Konarak first came to Auroville some 35 odd years ago, when it was still all red mud and sans trees, when Matrimandir was still a dream, he stayed in Aurodam. Paabi and B.S.Achar showed up one time and were given a great time by Nadaka and others there. On this trip, Shanthi had a party one night and Taddy/Erissa the luthier and Bob who makes Mesa Boogie style amps came over to his farm.  And a surprise for my parents – Angath came by too - they were thrilled. And so it was that the next day we trudged off to Aurodam to visit Taddy & Bob and try a steel string acoustic and a little 7 watt amp.

It’s always inspiring to be at Auroville. If it’s not the pond at Afsanah, it could be the salads at Ripos, or the fact of the Solar Kitchen serving up 300 lunches and an additional 600 school meals, or chatting with Rauf Ali, or just looking at the interesting constructions… I dunno, but there’s never a dull moment. This time too, we met old friends and were re-charged. Quiet artistry. Homes tucked away, interesting with shells and beads and koi ponds and hammocks. The lushness of cashew and casuarina.

It’s been our thing to stop at Tiruvanamalai on the way back to Bangalore. Just to peep into Ramana Maharshi’s room and wonder at his simplicity or perhaps to check out the peacocks. And to eat a thali at Arunai Anantha. This time I also wanted Kai to see the samadhis of his deer and dog and crow and cow. Sweetness personified... I remember Ammama always had a picture of Ramana Maharshi and Sharada in her clinic.  More dots to join, Kai!

Our hill at Magadi may not have the austerity of Ramana’s Arunachala, but it makes us want to stare at it and be close to it nonetheless. Maybe it’s the nearby presence of Savandurga. Shiva at hand.

“Arunachala! Thou dost root out the ego of those who meditate on Thee in the heart, Oh Arunachala!
Arunachala! Thou dost root out the ego of those who dwell on their identity with Thee, Oh Arunachala!”

Why is it called Infinite Souls we’ve been asked. The truth is practical rather than profound. It was our email password for the longest time. Having said that, where is the nasha without the infinite brushes we’ve had with others? Friends, strangers, lovers. Time shared. Unexpected kindnesses. Warmth. Nurture. Journeying folks all. Infinite Souls.


  1. Hi Kirtana,
    Nice post!! I ve been reading your travel stories for sometime now..
    Had a query..i believe you went to Mark Davidar's place sometime back.. Wanted to know how I could get in touch with him.. Did you stay over? Pls share some info if you could..
    Thanks a ton

  2. hello
    i had your contact from marjory i am a french choreographer i would like to meet you

  3. Hi,
    I wish I had Mark's number to share, but don't. Try dropping in on him in Mavanahalla.

    And, yes, marjory told me and now we will meet, ya?

  4. beautiful writing. thanks for giving me the opportunity to be part of your wonderful life.
    peace and love

  5. hi kirtana,
    nice writting
    it was very nice to read the story hope u keep sharing with us like this!
    hope to see u soon!
    are u gonna publish somethin about this times summer camp too, hope u do!