Visiting MatriMandir: An impossible wish
One year ago, when I visited Pondicherry for the first time, I heard about the Matrimandir, at the center of Auroville, it's a golden dome, a center of spirituality, and Aurovillian beliefs. As a group, we decided to see it. We cycled there, and landed up the first time, too late. We find out that the timings are specific, from - to - . We reached at 5:15, a bit too late, and they are not very flexible about that. So that was the first failed attempt. We find out you can get passes from 9-45 to 12-30 and 1-45 to 4 pm on weekdays, and 9-45 to 12-30pm on Sundays. Once you've got the passes, viewing times are different. They are 10 to 1 and 2 to 4-30pm on weekdays, and 10 to 1 only on Sundays.
The second time we were well informed, we got there on time, watched the required videos meant to enlighten you about Matrimandir, and finally saw it. From a distance of at least 200 meters! From the viewing point, the dome is tiny, fitting between my index finger and thumb easily. Again, we felt cheated all of us, design students, dying to see it from close. At this point we gave up, of course. I made up theories about why it was so difficult, it was a cult-religious thing, so they wanted to discourage disbelieving tourists from visiting it half-heartedly, or something...
Then my parents were visiting, so I knew I had to seriously try this time. I had to find out how to bypass all the heavy beaurocracy, rules, and rules within rules. I ask at the Auroville boutique, they give me a phone number. I call the phone number, and it is continuously engaged for 2 days. I go back to the Auroville boutique and tell them my problem, they remain unhelpful, say just call the number. So I call the number, I never get through, once I do actually get through and they say call after 2pm. I finally give up. Again.
It's been a year. Now my grandparents are coming to visit. It has begun again. I know it would be really important for my grandmother, who is very religious, to visit. So I ask around. This time I actually get a helpful person at the Auroville boutique. I tell him the number is continuously engaged, what do I do, my grandparents are coming, and I really want to show this to them. He agrees that it's difficult;
"The best way," he says, "is to ask one of your Auroville friends to come with you, sit for ten minutes until you get in, and then you're in." Of course, I always knew having an Auroville friend helps, but I don't have so many, and the one's I know, don't really want to tag along with me and my grandparents early on Sunday morning. What a favour to ask! So I nod my head in understanding, and I'm on my way.
Then I get the number again, and start calling frantically. Now, one year later, its automatic, you don't even get a human. It's now an IVR, with language options, and then, "If you've visited Matrimandir before press 2" and "If this is your first visit then press 1"
I press 2, and then hear about how you have to remember the last time you visited, the exact DATE, or else it's not counted. Plus it has to be recent. So I go back and press 1. They give you information on when to visit, and then a thank you, and they hang up. At this point, I ask a friend, who has managed to book the inside tour once through telephone, and she says you have to actually press 2, or something. So I press 2, and then figure out that you have to call between 2 and 4 pm only.
So now I've put a reminder on my phone, my face wears a determined expression, and here I go with my last (really this time I will really really give up) attempt to see the Matrimandir from the inside.
Update: I finally did see the inside of the Matrimandir when I was visiting from Bangalore with a friend who's parents regularly donate to them. No wonder it seemed so easy to her.