Among my happiest memories as an adolescent are the times I spent in the South Indian town of Auroville. It had been founded in 1968, the year of student revolution, as a Utopia—or, as Akash Kapur writes in his beautiful but devastating book, Better to Have Gone: Love, Death, and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville, “an intentional community.”
The seaside town of approximately 2,500 sent a regular contingent of some of the most surprising, brilliant, and, frankly, strange kids to my boarding school, in the hills of Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost state. They had these extraordinary half-Indic, half-European names, such as Satyen and Samya Tait, Akincana Keppel, Suryan Stettner. They spoke multiple languages, including fluent Tamil. They played marvelous soccer. They smoked pot, which invariably landed them in trouble with the missionaries who ran our school.