Manual labor at Sadhana Forest, Auroville, India

A Day in the Life of a Sadhana Forest Volunteer

First work meeting. Everyone is tired and eating a bananna to wake up
First work meeting. Everyone is tired and eating a bananna to wake up

Wake up as close to it as you want, but at 6:30am the first jobs are given out and the day begins. Referred to as first work, these tasks are day’s most labor-intensive work, as the air is still cool and the sun is low. Jobs range from planting trees to preparing breakfast, working in a garden, cleaning the main hut, digging holes, cleaning the toilets, building roads or babysitting the founders’ infant. Regardless of your task, it was done with the help of other people and everyone has something to do.

After two hours, everyone is quite hungry and ready to hear the gong that signals the end of first work and the start of breakfast. Prepared during first work, breakfast is always the same: fresh fruit, porridge and jaggery (a local and natural sugar). Second work assignments are also divvied out over the meal and usually involve some sort of gardening or less-intensive maintenance work. Carrie and I always tried to get something indoors or shaded, as by the time work starts up again at 9:30am the sun is already blazing.

Sadhana Forest, Auroville, India
Filling up the hand washing buckets next to the bathroom

Once second work ends (as close to 11:30 as possible), people in the community begin to scatter and plan their day’s activities. Lunch is always at 12:30, but other than that the days are up for grabs. Every afternoon, members of the community put on workshops on subjects ranging from creative writing to yoga, dance and the art of tying yourself to a bulldozer as a nonviolent protest. When not attending those some of my favorite pastimes were napping, using the free wi-fi (when we actually had power), reading, napping, relaxing, hopping on a scooter to go explore the nearby area, getting ice cream, just staring off and napping.

The evening’s possible activities are very similar to that of the afternoons. Dinner is served at 5:30, after which there are workshops, presentations, videos, talent shows and other planned activities. All of these are optional and put on by community members. Later in the evening a drum circle around a bonfire is a common sight (despite the questionable need for a giant fire in an 85 degree evening) and goodnights are often said early, as everyone has to get up at 6:30am tomorrow and do it all again.