Vol. 1 : I’m off the grid, so here is an open letter to friends & family

Rishi Singhal
6 min readApr 21, 2021


Where am I writing this : Kalpana Building, Auroville

What have I been up to?

A lot of travel and fun, with some effortless work & relocation.

I’m writing here, because I can’t make calls or whatsapp (very poor connectivity, long live Vodafone and Airtel).

As I have some pictures and stories to share I will try to break it down into fun digestible parts.

Where am I?

I live in Auroville International Township. It’s located less than 8 kms away from Pondicherry city center. Which is basically the old French town area. I think this is what Puducherry is all about, the white town area (for most tourists). It’s quite good, but just 0.01% of what this part of India has to offer.

Under the Banyan tree. Love.

Now why do I say this? Most people know about Pondicherry but not Auroville. And when you do know about Auroville it is this golden globe shaped temple. Then some of you know a little bit more about Auroville. But if you haven’t lived here for 2 months or more, let me take you on a magical journey. More on this in a separate article/ video.

What is Auroville?

Auroville is a little known township. The citizens here are a mix of Europeans and Indians and a few from 70–80 different countries. A site, approximately 20 square kilometres of barren wasteland, some 10 km north of Pondicherry and 5 km from the coast was chosen for the city.

By Matthew T Rader, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88580569

It has the following elements to it:

  • Spirituality for mental fitness and manifestation
  • Amazing examples of architectural marvels
  • Environment suitable for physical fitness
  • Sustainable living with very low carbon footprint
  • Organic food from farm to table directly
  • Cafe’s and restaurants for tourists
  • Studios for arts and crafts
  • Yoga and meditation practices
  • Alternative education from kindergarten to professional courses
  • Resorts & guesthouses for tourists, WHF long stays, & volunteers

It’s not just a single place, which is a city, but an experiment on humanity.

I’m here for a few months, to learn, laugh and live.

The people here have live for more than 50 years as well. Out of 5000 people here currently 3000 may be Indians. Who live spread out in 2500 acres. It’s a jungle. A real jungle, not made of concrete.

When & how did I reach here?

I arrived in Auroville, or to a village just at the periphery of Auroville. I isolated myself in a hut which looked like this. I reached here after the elections (6th) of Puducherry on 10th April. So I have been here 10+ days, & I can say I’m settled in. That’s why I have been out of touch, no letters, no blogs in the last 3 weeks. It took it’s own time, & I’m happy.

I arrived here in my cycle. I wanted to cycle from Chennai to Auroville which is 150 kms. I would have taken 2 days to do it. But I covered half of it on cycle, then I took a bus. Basically on the morning of 10th April I got very tired cycling after 15kms. It seems like my glycogen stores were depleted after 60kms of cycling last evening from 4PM to 9PM. I stayed the night of the 9th in Mahabalipuram. So I waited for a private bus operator, negotiated a ride for me and my cycle to Auroville outskirts for ₹300. Basically for the last 70 kms of the journey. I unloaded my cycle from the luggage box at the back around 11AM and cycled the last 5 kms to my guesthouse.

So I reached Auroville with

  • a bedsheet
  • a towel
  • a knife
  • my phone
  • some cash
  • no IDs
  • No credit cards
  • a 8 meter long &1/2 inch thick nylon rope
  • 1 shorts & 1 t-shirt which I wore on the way
  • 1 cycling tights that I use while long distance cycling
my first guesthouse during isolation
a cashew tree and my cycle in the back

What about the rest of my luggage? And what did I do for the last 1 month before I arrived here is also quite interesting. It’s part of my backpacking experience. A small glimpse of my days upto Holi 26th March is in this Medium article.

Maybe this topic deserves another article and videos. Oh.. its a pandoras box. And a good one.

How and Why did I reach here?

Real reasons:

  • I quit my last startup on October 14th, 2020
  • I wanted a volunteering job in the field of my interest, I’m picky
  • I didn’t want to live locked inside homes in cities due to COVID
  • I don’t like any city of India, maybe Bhopal and Udaipur are nice
  • I can’t live at home with my parents in Mangalore for more than 15 days at a time
  • I have complained a lot about my environment, so I needed to experience Auroville
  • I have been through a period of Persistent Depressive Disorder since 2015, until a few months ago

I can’t believe a place like Auroville exists in India! We are truly fortunate.

I feel extremely happy that this place houses just 5000 people these days. But when tourists come on weekends the population rises temporarily to 15000+. So the spread of COVID is limited. Auroville is very very safe. People are smart enough to take precautions as well when the cases are rising all over the country.

There are 100+ guesthouses in Auroville, and more than 200+ places just in the periphery of Auroville.

Meta level reasons:

  • To practice a daily routine/ sadhana in a natural environment
  • Live the alternative circular lifestyle, away from consumerism and the political system
  • Dive into the vibes and energy created by the golden globed meditation hall, called Matrimandir
  • Escape pleasure seeking habits such as smoking, drinking, watching content on phones & fast food indulgence
  • To learn from people all around the world about things I don’t know that exist
  • To dabble with arts and crafts..

What am I doing here?

  • Volunteer work at Auroville Consulting, as a renewable energy expert.
  • Personal fitness first
  • Managing my firm — Nivin Labs, and projects under it (website under development)
  • Project Nivin G1— Converting a bike to electric drivetrain (video)
  • Project Nivin bazar — A marketplace for recycled plastic products
  • Preparing a short course for 10–12 students at Aurous Academy, Bhopal
notice the missing engine

What’s the plan?

  • Volunteer for 3–6 months at Auroville Consulting, survive with my maintenance salary of ₹15,000/ month.
  • Projects should progress (more on this separately, multiple projects in various stages)
  • Write 5000 words every week (personal)
  • Read up to 50 pages every day, minimum 15 minutes.
  • Priority fitness, mental and physical and maybe spiritual
  • Host my friends and family inside Auroville (sporadically)
  • To let myself flow like a river

Whoever is reading this you are invited, reach out to me via comments on this post.

  • In a WFH world, you don’t have a real excuse for avoiding Auroville in your long term stay plans.
  • If you can visit this place for 10 days, just combine 2 weekends.
  • We can have a lot of fun together, or you can explore by yourself too.


Where do I live?

In the lap of nature.

my simple cottage, temporarily.
a single bed for Singhal
lots of pets around to keep me company

In my next letter I’ll answer more questions like

  • How do I earn money?
  • Where do I work (officially)?
  • Where else do I work (family businesses)?
  • What do I want immediately?
  • What have I learnt on my backpacking trip regarding money?

Wear a mask & don’t indulge in unnecessary consumerism, you might be safer.