If the story of Walker and Mays cannot be separated from the longing and naivete of the 1960s, as Kapur writes, it is further entangled in the politics of Auroville, an identity crisis following the death of a mother. I had come. 1973. Ideological differences went up to the Indian Supreme Court: did Auroville’s teachings constitute a religion, a sect or a spirituality? What are the differences between the three?
For a book so diligent about context, however, Kapoor’s lack of interest in Auroville’s colonial heritage is surprising, and his description of the land—”a suitable tabla rasa for the New World”, it, at this extreme stage. In Tamil Nadu – Really surprised me. (For an in-depth treatment of Auroville’s colonial roots – and indeed the idea of utopia – see Jessica Namakkal’s “Unsettling Utopia,” Published last month.)
A louder, more troubling omission is the mess itself. The contours of her beliefs, desires, personality are not easy to trace, and her contradictions impossible to reconcile – the one who brought up young Aurellis by neighbors but insisted on spoon-feeding the girl in her teens? She is a sphinx, mostly confined to the extraordinary fact of her beauty. Walker, on the other hand, not only left a cache of correspondence, but also proved to be an unusually interesting writer. Some of the most lively prose in the book can be found in his letters (the extended citation comes with its dangers). Kapoor has his talent—the story is mysteriously structured, and I devoured it with febrile intensity—but he also has a deadly penchant for cliches. The men include all the necessary crowds in this tale full of “unfinished business” and “the wreck of history”, including “the wolf is always at the door” and the season is spent in the “belly of the beast” (in this case, Harvard) .
If there is a mystery to be solved in this book, it is not what happened in October 1986 at the cottage where a man was dying and a woman was crying watching him. Many saw what happened, found out; It was sad and deeply unnecessary. The mystery lies in the origins of this book and the desire, I suspect, to be the gracious austerity where Mace is concerned. This book has a real reader in mind: Aurelis, who was raised with a kind of reverence and neglect that was not uncommon in Auroville in those days. She went out for food, ran to neighbors when the chaos of her house proved to be too much. Living with her, Kapoor becomes aware of the quality of her silence – “there are places we don’t go, things we can’t – can’t – talk about,” he writes. “I think one of the reasons I wrote this book was to break down those walls.”
He accomplishes far more. He brings this past into a kind of balance: he shows how to hold it, all together, in one eye—a place in a people and all their promise and corruption. It is a complex offering, it is a book, and an artifact of great love.