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But for a professed utopia, Auroville has a laundry list of problems; high up on the list are robbery and sexual harassment cases in the non-gated community surrounded by local villages, but there have been more drastic cases of rape, suicide, and even murder.My taxi snaked through bright red dust roads deeper into the forest, passing shops with Bob Marley T-shirts hung like laundry outside.
My clothes were damp by the time I found a liquor store, a grungy hole-in-the-wall shop on the corner of a typically South Indian pastel temple-crammed street.
After a three-hour flight from Delhi to Chennai, and a “three-hour” bus ride from Chennai to Pondicherry that took more than five hours, I’d finally reached the last leg of the journey to the world’s largest existing spiritual utopia, Auroville, aka “the City of Dawn.” I called Maha Travels, a taxi service provided to me by my host in Auroville, a woman I’ll call Shanta whom I’d found on a website called Auro Host.
I presented the bottle of wine, which she accepted immediately, if not eagerly.
She gave me a tour of the house in which she lived with her American husband and two small children.
I thought a bottle of red wine would be an appropriate gift to bring to utopia.
It was June in Pondicherry, a sleepy beach town off the Bay of Bengal characterized by its post-colonial French influence, and the mid-afternoon heat was oppressive, peaking just above 100 degrees.
As we crawled deeper into the forest, dotted with mango, jackfruit, lime, and fern trees, a random, dusty sign reading, “Get out of the office” poked from the trees.
Soon we reached a small white house built from cement and a wooden thatched roof.
A woman appeared at the door with a naked baby in her arms, introducing herself, as most Aurovilians do, by one name: Shanta, my host.