Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
Seek and you shall be rewarded, if not with anything, at least with the satisfaction of having sought. This has been my sweetest realization through my solo journeys – wanting to visit a random house or a long forgotten museum or a studio of a not-so-popular but terrific artist, a favourite author! Most of my great travel experiences have begun either in a book or in an email. So when I wished to visit an Auroville unit that I am most curious about, I did think it was going to be a difficult one to get to but it wasn’t going to be impossible. I wouldn’t know and couldn’t have guessed the scope of its possibility until I wrote to a nondescript ‘info’ email id, info@aurovillepress… The best thing to do when wishing for something you really want but are unsure of getting, is to imagine it will happen, the opposite of this advice is more popular but I’d say – believe you’d have this experience, imagine it in your head. This is good for two reasons, one – if you are indeed gifted with such an experience, it just becomes more special as you’ve wanted this, imagined it and are two – when it does happen, you will know that the most pleasurable experience of life is witnessing your imagination turn into reality. If such a thing doesn’t happen, you’ve still lived that experience in your head – you’ve visited the museum or met the author in your imagination and that’s a gift too.
When I wrote to Auroville Press, I hoped they’d reply but I didn’t expect them to. It seemed like a very busy unit with many things happening at one place, and also a popular one, a very precious one. But Herve wrote, though simply but warmly inviting me to the unit on a Friday – of course I’d go. I didn’t know what I wanted to do there – I was interested in knowing how the paper was made, that was also my expression of interest when writing to the unit but what exactly I will do with all that knowledge and experience, I didn’t know. It seemed like I would have a great experience and see special things. My mate agreed to go, somehow I knew he’d be interested for the man of good taste that he is.
After an epic road trip all the way from our office desks to the Bay of Bengal and a day or two of relaxing came Friday. Meanwhile, Herve surprised me very pleasantly by writing to me just a day before. Though the writing seemed devoid of any personal touch, the fact that Herve thought of me and shared APs newsletter with me was a very special gesture that made me smile for long on a sweet evening, a bit of which was spent at the soothing Touskilfo as I relaxed in calf-length tights and flowy, light, white top that clung gently to me as did my mate.
Every AP notebook that I have used, came with a little sweet note that almost begins with ‘no tree is fell in the making of this paper…’ further explaining that the paper I wrote on is made of fallen leaves and/or other organic material. For a lover of stories that I am – I love the beauty and romance behind this paper which is creating a thing of beauty from the dead as opposed to destruction for the sake of beauty. I don’t like it that trees are cut to make paper but I love paper. I love Auroville Press for lessening my conflicting misery. Here’s paper I can peacefully use.
At the unit, gentle, affable and warm Herve took us from one part of the unit through another, while sharing the history of paper and the history of Auroville Press unit. It was a very Aurovillian afternoon, the greatest pleasure of which was listening to Herve’s French accented English and occasionally hearing him speak Tamil with his team, while feeling every raw material that goes into the making of my paper – my paper that I always allow myself to feel by gently gliding my fingers on its roughness before I set the pen on it. Every touch was special for whatever I touched would soon transform into glorious paper. The most interesting of these materials was tiny bits of cotton from old t shirts. Here’s more to add to my belief that ‘a t-shirt can change the world.’
Of the special things I saw, was a very old paper making machine, just the kind of things I had wanted to see. Following Herve’s brisk gliding from one section to another as he feels everything, followed by my feeling the same , we found ourselves in a small, dark tubelight-lit room that curated every kind of paper made at the unit – I am guessing, one sheet each. Kind Herve pulled out special sheets to show us – sheets of many colours and textures, a paper library of a very special kind. I think I’d forever remember the different shades of ‘azure’ on one paper, what an incredible thing.
I was almost expecting to meet with Auroville Press’ terrific design team, I imagined a grand team of no less than 4 young minds, perhaps recent graduates from something grand like the NID or maybe even from some international design school. AP makes great things that come out of great design ideas – Herve explained that most ideas are built one on another but even the most basic ideas are remarkable. I almost couldn’t wait to meet this design team I had imagined until Herve told me that there’s no design team really. It’s the women at the unit, from nearby villages, that come up with these innovative ideas in addition to the great supportive minds at AP, Herve and friends. To think that these wonderful girls, no graduates from grand design schools but great designers by all means – designed the paper ear rings, jewellery and other things was a remarkable and highly inspiring discovery.
Auroville Press’ true innovation exhibition is the office cum studio where Herve works, where in less than quarter of an hour, I was treated to an exhibition of extraordinary innovation with paper – what these are can be learnt from AP’s website, what I will tell you here is that it’s incredible how people here play with their paper and make things of immense utility scope.
After all that educational and personal sharing about Auroville Paper, I was glad to be invited to tea/lemonade in the garden by Herve and another of his team member to talk some more on stories, story writing, the cacophony of cities. I was amused to know of the special story of a strange, big bird that managed to build its nest on a football ground in Auroville, that remains shut until the eggs hatch and the little ones leave the nest. Dear Herve, thank you. I now wish to be and remain a friend of Auroville Press. I left the unit smiling, with sweet gifts I asked Herve if I could keep – a cotton rag, a fallen leaf, a bit of paper made from banana fibre and made by kids that took an interest in this peaceful paper.