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One could say it was serendipity that when Hilary Smith was looking for an internship in France, she found the posting for the Auroville Earth Institute (which is run by a French architect). “I applied and was accepted. What brought me back to live here permanently was the unique environment that challenged and encouraged me. I loved the people, colours and climate,though the monsoon is a bit intense for me,” gushes Smith, 27. She came to Pondicherry last year and has been working as the librarian at the Auroville Earth Institute, a small research institute that specialises in buildings. She also manages a small office library, their digital collection, and some of their publications. To balance out this very desk-bound work, Smith often involves herself with horses at the Red Earth Riding School.

Saddle up

From Santa Cruz, on the central coast of California, Smith first learnt riding from her mother. “Mom first taught me to ride when I was about ten with one of our friend’s ‘backyard horses’. I then took about four years of lessons, in dressage. I didn’t ride for eight years, until I came to Auroville and knew that the time had come for me to take up riding again,” she says. She explains that over the years, she has learnt different approaches to riding and is ‘‘currently trying to find the synthesis to it all’’ to find her own style.Something that she enjoys now is teaching riding to beginners. “I enjoy trying to find the key to explaining different concepts of riding, through reframing, metaphor, imagery,” explains Smith, who has a Bachelors degree in Near Eastern Studies.

Learning to unwind

Besides horse riding, Smith likes working in her garden, which is an unending endeavor of weeding, pruning and building bunds. “During lunch hour and in the evenings, I like to read, which can vary from sci-fi (particularly cyberpunk), to post-revolution Algerian literature (from the Décennie Noire, the Civil War period), to 19th century English Literature. Sometimes, I just head out on my bike, a little 150cc Fiero, which I adore, to absorb the vibrance of daily life in Pondicherry,” she concludes.

—Mrinalini Sundar

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