Why does the Youth Centre always draw flak from the community? A personal view from an 18-year old.
It seems that Auroville was planned excluding youth. In Auroville, youth are not meant to exist and many residents seem to think that youth should just disappear. Somehow the people who complain the most about the youth are the people who either don't have children or any young relatives, or people whose relatives, who are youth, aren't here, or people who don't realize that one day their own children will grow up to be youth. Because the youth in Auroville are a minority, they are readily ignored. They cannot respond to whatever they are accused of because, naturally, who is going to listen to or believe them?
The focal point of criticism, of course, is the Youth Centre, where a lot of youngsters gather. Those who criticize are however unaware that a lot of physical effort has been put into the Youth Centre and that quite a few youth have taken the responsibility to make this happen. The place has been undergoing a major change, both in atmosphere as in construction – though the construction hasn't changed much except for one new building, a store room, since there are barely any funds available for any more construction. But there has been a lot of repairing and maintaining of the other structures there. In the process several different things have happened that have been great learning experiences, such as making charcoal, building the storeroom and an oven, painting, cooking, cutting down dead trees for fire wood, fixing up the basketball hoop and board, growing a vegetable garden, and lots more. The Christmas fair was held last year at the Youth Centre and a huge amount of people showed up, a majority of whom were Aurovilians. The whole scene was run by the youth and some helpful Aurovilians who weren't afraid to be alongside them.
For the past year or more the Youth Centre has also been organizing regular pizza and barbecue evenings, twice a week for the community – not just for youth – as well as an Indian dinner on Sundays with a movie afterwards, open to the community. But only a few brave people who are not youth have actually dared to try it out and see how these ‘wild and horrible' youth make food. From my experience, the result has been pretty positive – the people who came actually ended up enjoying the food. And maybe they changed their opinion of the Youth Centre.
I believe that the bad reputation pinned by some members of the community onto the Youth Centre causes unwanted characters to show up. Then undesired things may happen indeed. But these bad things are caused by people (not only youth) from Pondicherry or the neighboring villages and sometimes even from as far away as Chennai. It is not the Auroville youth's fault. But because it happens at the Youth Centre, then of course it is a bad place and the youth stand implicated.
After a certain incident, security at parties in the Youth Center was organized, in which the youth themselves took turns in providing security. This however did not keep some community members happy for long. The music had to be turned off at eleven or twelve. Do they expect parties to start at 4.30 in the afternoon so that everyone is home before dark, maybe with a little treasure hunt towards the end? One ‘non-youth' resident (at a meeting with the youth at the youth center) even suggested that if the youth wanted to party let them go to some other country; let them go to Pondicherry , just as long as they aren't in Auroville. If they have an accident along the way because some drunken lorry driver crashes into them, it's their problem. I mean they are only youth, who cares what happens to them as long as they are not in Auroville? This ‘nice' person's plan was to expose the youth of Auroville to things that happen that are not so ‘nice' – as long as he is not disturbed by some occasional loud music.
The Youth Centre, a perfectly safe place in Auroville, is the only place available in Auroville for its youth. It is the only place the youth have to hang out. They run it themselves, they do everything themselves, they do not bother Auroville in the least and Auroville does not have to worry about finding someone to run the place. But still certain people want to see the place closed down. Proposals were submitted for the Youth Centre project to try and get funds to build and make it a better place, one of which included the construction of a sound-proof room in which parties could be held so as to not disturb the community. This didn't exactly seem to work.
The Youth Centre is meant to be a place for the youth, not only of this generation but for those to come. But without the support and approval of the community, it will never work out – there will always be problems. The main issue is that the community has not accepted the youth as being part of it. They are despised or at best ignored by the community and seen as only bringing problems. But this attitude has to change – if progress is to be made.
The youth need a place to hang out, where they can be together and go about their stuff without being bothered and without bothering – it isn't that crazy. The solution is not simple but it is possible to work one out together, supporting one another, and putting some effort into it. Or is this too much to ask, too much a waste of time and energy for the community? Here is a reminder: right now there may not be very many youth, but the city is planned for fifty thousand people, and there will be many youth – many more than the few today. What is to become of all those youth? Will they be banned to other countries or cities? Or are they expected to be sitting at home all night, being serious and becoming enlightened?
Virya is of Spanish-Italian origin, and ready to graduate from Future School . He plans to go to university and continue his studies outside Auroville. He enjoys playing basket ball in the afternoons besides hanging out at the Youth Centre.