Already in the seventies, Gnanavel came from Kottakarai to work as very young boy in the Matrimandir Nursery, readily learning about plants and following schooling at Ilaignarkal. After running an own nursery in Kottakarai for some time, his life became more intimately interwoven with the Matrimandir Nursery when he eventually came to live there in the early nineties, at the time of his joining Auroville for good in ‘92.
Colleagues know him as a quiet, introvert family man, who loved his work, and was dedicated to build the Matrimandir gardens. In these latest years, it was Gnanavel who quietly took up the management of the Nursery, having started there as a kid so long ago.
On 3rd February, 2017 evening due to a stroke caused by high blood pressure Gnanavel left his body. On Thursday Feb 2nd he was taken in serious condition to PIMS from where he was transported to the Ramachandra Medical College in Chennai. His family, wife Geetha and children Madivanan and Kalaiyarasan accompanied him. Just a week ago he had become 53 years old.
Words of August Timmermans his early days mentor ” I have known Gnanavel from 1981 until 1985 when I had joined the Matrimandir Nursery when Daniel Wilms was the Manager there. Narad had left Auroville, and the Nursery went through a tough time. Gnanavel stood out among the workers, meaning he was genuinely interested and involved in the work he did there, and it was significant work: taking care of the high diversity of delicate orchids that Alan Klaas had collected over the years, meant for the Matrimandir Gardens.
Gnanavel was liked for his sensitivity and for the inner joy that expressed itself in a beautiful smile. One day he asked me if he could become an Aurovilian, and for that he needed a one-year supervisor. I accepted the responsibility; unfortunately I left Auroville before that year was completed. Now I learn that only in ’92 he became officially an Aurovilian, seven years later.
Gnanavel was a wonderful presence in the Matrimandir Nursery, it is good to know that he kept working there until the end of his life. I wish his wife and two children all the strength in their lives without him. ”
May you rest in peace, Gnanavel , and thank you for your quiet presence, hesitant smile and calm dedication. Our warmest sympathy and strength go out to Geetha, Madi and Kalay.