Axel

It is with a heavy heart that we would like to inform the community of the passing of Axel Johann Björnsson.

Axel passed away peacefully in his sleep in the night of the 14th of February in his home in Vilcabamba, Ecuador at the age of 59, after a long struggle due to a failed surgery. He was cremated on the 19th of February in Loja, Ecuador, in the presence of his girlfriend, his sister, and oldest daughter.

His funeral is currently being planned for July, in the presence of his entire family in his home country, Iceland.

Axel joined Auroville in 2005 and was, as many may recall, not only an enthusiastic actor in the Auroville theatre group, but also a maths teacher at Transition school.

He had left Auroville in the beginning of 2013 for a new adventure in Ecuador, South America. This is where he built up his own business, a restaurant, which quickly became the place to be in town.

Like many of you will remember, he was always a joyful and happy person, there are definitely many moments of laughter he will be remembered by. He will be greatly missed by us all for his unique sense of humour and joyous ways.

We bid farewell to our dear friend with the following words…

I am free

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free,
I’m following paths God made for me
I took his hand, I heard him call
Then turned, and bid farewell to all

I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to sing, to play
Tasks left undone must stay that way
I found my peace … at close of play

And if my parting left a void
Then fill it with remembered joy
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss
Ah yes, these things I too will miss.

Be not burdened… deep with sorrow
I wish you sunshine of tomorrow
My life’s been full I’ve savoured much
Good friends, good times
A loved one’s touch

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief,
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts and peace to thee
God wanted me now
He set me free.

Sawitri, daughter of Sonja and Krishnaprem from Angiras Garden,
informed us of the passing of Axel, her step-father

Saraswati Helene

This is to inform the community that our dear friend and sister, Aurovilian Saraswati Helene Champaloux, passed away in France at the age of 75 after a long struggle with cancer.

Saraswati received her name from Champaklal in 1991 and joined Auroville two years later. Being a painter, her vision and technique of her expressions gradually changed due to her inner research in light of quantum physicists and the readings David Bohm and Fridjof Capra which aligned with her experience. She held several exhibitions in Auroville such as the Angel’s theme exhibition in September 2000 at Pitanga, which was deeply inspiring and had a wonderful presence.

Apart from her artwork, Saraswati worked at the Auroville Health Center and Auroville Earth Institute. She was known for her warmhearted nature, always giving love and support to the ones around her.
The funeral of Saraswati’s remains took place in France on 16 February, and Auroville friends bade her farewell during a silent gathering at the Matrimandir Banyan tree in the late afternoon of the same day.

Our warmest condolences go out to her daughter Anata and grandson Raphael.

OM~

E. Krishnamoorthy

This is to inform the community that in the afternoon of Monday 24 January, our good friend and brother E. Krishnamoorthy of Sangamam passed away in Pondy’s General Hospital, where he had remained in treatment for a head wound caused by a road accident on January 12th. He would have been 50 next month.

Krishnamoorthy originally came from Kuilyapalayam and worked from the early nineties onwards for the then Auroville Messenger Service, as one of the ‘messengers’, distributing the Auroville News and other post items on his bicycle to the various communities. At the time this was the way Aurovilians communicated with each other. With his open smile and upbeat demeanour, he was often received as a welcome presence in those still much quieter days without email or even telephones. After years of riding his bike over sandy paths in the hot sun, he worked for some time at Solar Service and Abri Electrical Service, and more recently at UTS where he handled the phones and did administrative work. In 2017 he had made the big step to become newcomer and joined as Aurovilian in 2020.

Thank you, Krishnamoorthy, for having been with us so long. May you rest in peace.

Our warmest condolences go out to his family, wife Castoury and their two sons, Madhiazhagan and Mahendren. Krishnamoorthy’s remains were cremated at the Auroville mandapam in the late afternoon of January 25th, with family members and many of his friends attending.

OM~

Chitra

This is to inform the community that in the afternoon of Thursday 13 January, our dear friend and sister Chitra Balaguru passed away due to suicide in her Humanscapes home, which she shared with her husband Balaguru and daughter Praveena. She was 39 years old.

Originally hailing from Chennai, Chitra came with her husband and small daughter to Auroville in 2013 and officially joined in March 2016. Having experience with senior care, she naturally gravitated towards the Auroville Health Services where she has been working as hygiene inspector and care giver for almost ten years. She was much appreciated by both AVHS and the many recipients of her care, who saw her as a conscientious, friendly and always uplifting presence in their lives. She will be sorely missed.

Chitra’s body was cremated at the Auroville mandappam in the morning of 15 January with members of family and friends attending.

Thank you, Chitra, and may you find peace. Our warmest condolences go out to the family.

OM~

Peggy Rustomji

In the early morning of 15 December, Peggy, the mother of Jehangir and Rishad Rustomji, first generation of students of Auroville, passed away in her home in Kodaikanal. Both her sons were with her during the time of transition.

Some of us affectionately remember her sitting in the school bus that would bring students and teachers from the Ashram and Pondicherry to Auroville in the seventies, – in those halcyon days when we embarked on the Auroville adventure on an empty canvas.

OM~

Surya

With deepest sadness Auroville mourns the loss of one its young: Surya, son of Mani and Saroja of Douceur met in the early hours of Sunday 5 December with a road accident near Pondy and passed away due to his injuries. He was 25 years old.

Surya had finished his higher education here in Auroville and had recently started working with the new Solar Kitchen team.

After the body was received from Jipmer hospital, the last rights were honoured at his parental house at Douceur, and cremation took place at 6pm the same day, 5/12, at the Auroville Mandappam near Adventure, with many Aurovilians, young and old, as well as friends from surrounding villages attending and grieving. So suddenly losing this open, bright and friendly youth had come as a heavy shock to us all.

Our utmost love, care and strength go out to both Saroja and Mani for this terrible ordeal they now have to go through for a second time.

OM~

Bernard Borg

Born in Tunis, Tunisia, on the 4th October 1946, Bernard Borg moved in 1961 with his family to Marseille, in France, while he was still a young boy of 15. He was a French “pieds noirs” (black feet) as repatriated people from Tunisia, Algeria or Morocco used to be called. In Marseille, he studied for a few years at the school of the Beaux Arts, and he always kept alive a strong aspiration for beauty and art. 

Early 1969, he left Marseille for India with his wife, Claude, to be part of the great adventure of Auroville. They arrived in Pondicherry in March and went to live in Promesse where Aurokali was born a few months later.  Then they shifted to Pondicherry and worked at Kali Guest House while teaching in the Ashram school. It wasn’t Bernard’s idea to be in the Ashram and it did not suit his restless and undisciplined temperament. Nevertheless, it gave him the wonderful opportunity to meet The Mother every Wednesday. 

At the end of 1972, Mother asked Bernard to shift to Auroville. About him she remarked: “We have been severe to this man, don’t you find a change in him? I feel that there is an aspiration in him.” And that’s how Bernard, Claude and Kali finally moved to the storeroom of Auroson’s home, in Certitude, turning it into a nice little house. During this time, Bernard started extracting pebbles behind Promesse for the construction of Auroville. 

After a year, the family moved to Aspiration. While there, Bernard bought a lorry and a tractor to transport materials for the construction of Matrimandir. Possessing only basic English, he also did some fund raising in India with Alain Bernard. A very funny idea and a good experience! But it is through these attempts, these impulses and actions that we learn the only indispensable thing: how to stay tuned to the “Mother”s frequency”.

In the meantime, in 1974, a second little girl had arrived, Aurokripa, born in a hut in Aspiration.

A few years later, on the 29th May 1976, what should have remained a splendid joke, an unbridled act of youngsters—the event of the taking over of Navajata’s “Aspiration Hut” turned badly: eight Aurovilians found themselves in prison the same evening, taken away like criminals by armed police.

Bernard was one of them, of course. Auroville was shaken, divided, violently bruised at times, but after the intervention of the Central Government, freed in large part from the power of the Agency that was supposed to protect it, Auroville continued its path.

Bernard remained very present during these years. The graft had taken well. But other trials were to come, one after another, like waves in a storm. 

It was Satprem, a brother who helped so many willing Aurovilians to keep their eyes on Mother. He was the one who wiped out the bulk of the storm. And then, again, time passed, the difficulties took another form… the Administration, for the new status of Auroville was not Bernard’s strong point. 

From Aspiration, they moved to Auromodèle. There, Bernard had several cows and started a little farm. Claude planted, planted and planted overturned badly:  50 000 trees in Auromodèle area. Many of the big trees today are standing straight, witnessing the labour of that time. 

In 1976, they moved to a chosen piece of land near Certitude, between Pitchandikulam and the construction site of the Matrimandir. Bernard named it Sharnga, the name of Krishna’s bow which never misses its target. 

The family moved on the land in a rudimentary shed. Satprem came several times to Sharnga to visit Bernard, Claude and the little Kali and Kripa.

The house to be built was designed in jail by Bernard and Jean Pougault. The structure of the roof was built in Toujours Mieux, Aspiration, and carried across the fields by foot from there to Sharnga by 50 men. That was really another time… 

Sharnga is Bernard’s personal story…

During these years, the struggle to secure Auroville continued, there was to be another arrest of a much larger group of people gathered around the Banyan Tree, who were kept in custody for a few days in Villupuram jailhouse. Bernard, of course, was again part of them.

One can only remember a few of the projects that took place in Sharnga because Bernard was not short of daring dreams! In the early days, he set out to produce tomatoes for Pour Tous. He grew them under large nets, but the heat was too much. The next project was a dairy. It is not clear how long it lasted, but one day the cows left Sharnga to form the start of an Aspiration Farm.

Soon after, Bernard started his most useless project, the most ambitious, the most difficult, but the most aesthetic. He fell in love with a horse called Ashwa. He decided to breed and raise thoroughbred      horses destined to race in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai… The horses were beautiful, they needed fresh rain, drizzle, soft ground and tender grass. But Auroville could not compete with Normandy, everything had to be created artificially. It was an endless, colossal job, against a nature more favorable to the goats and the small cows of Tamil-Nadu. But the horses were beautiful… The dream was stronger than the hurdles.

Land was bought, the farm grew, water ponds, grazing fields, training tracks were built and Sharnga expanded.  As the community grew, grazing fields were transformed into residential houses. Finally, in 1993, the horse breeding activity exhausted itself, and the stables were transformed to welcome Newcomers. So many Aurovilians came for the first time to Auroville and got hooked, connected, touched, while living in Sharnga.

Meanwhile, Bernard had a new family, a third little girl was born to  him and Sigrid, his new partner. Mirrabelle was born in 1995 and the area slowly grew into the beautiful lush guest house we know today. Bernard’s life went on with another wife, Shanti and her daughter, Saoumya, that he took in.

So many remember Bernard’s character, with the generosity of a heart bigger than words can express, a very strong vitality, loving to provoke, shout, extremely sensitive and always expecting the best from people. He was totally in love with Mother. He had given himself to her, and was completely devoted to her Dream. 

Pioneer, artist, creator, builder, he worked with an inexhaustible energy, walking and pacing Sharnga all day, all night, doing, following, having everything under his scrutiny and control. When he would sit with his guests and friends for dinner he would entirely open up, share and communicate something of the essential with the people in front of him and many have been moved, called, and connected with The Mother through him. He had the gift not to judge, and he believed in people when everybody else had given up on them. 

The last months of his life demonstrated the love, devotion and surrender he had for Her. In full trust, and as Her son, he gave himself back to Her. 

The night before his last day he felt an intense well being and, a few hours later, peacefully left us with a deep breath on the 28th of November 2021 at 5:20 pm.

Kripa

Chellathai

This is to inform the community that our long-term friend and sister J. Chellathai from Dharapuram left her body in the late afternoon of 3 November in Pondicherry’s General Hospital at the age of 73. Having suffered a stroke last year and being diabetic, she died from a gangrene infection.

Recruited from the Cuddalore Handicraft department by then Aurovilian Bryan Walton, Chellathai arrived with her mother Mary Ponammal in Fraternity in 1973. Being highly skilled in korai pai grass mat making, they were very welcome in Fraternity’s handicrafts world and became integrated part of the community. Eventually Chellathai became head of Fraternity’s new Korai Pai Department and trainer of some of Kuilyapalayam’s youth. The mats became an important product for many Aurovilians, and even from the Ashram orders came in. In due time she married Mohan, a fine carpenter in Fraternity, and the father of Tixon.  The whole family became part of Fraternity’s handicraft set-up and went through the community’s ups and downs of that time. Chellathai was the elder sister of the late Stephenraj, and lived her later years with her son Tixon and his wife Vanitha in Malarchi, a small children’s boarding in New Creation.

Our warmest condolences go out to her sons Lalit (expired, ex-employee of AVES for 30 years), Sebastian, Johnson, Tixon and Philip, and their families.

OM~

Gerard

At noontime of Sunday 10 October, our dear friend and brother Gerard Carabin passed away in his room at Marika House due to issues related to Parkinson’s Disease. He was 73 years old.

Gerard was born in Paris and came to join Auroville in 1973 at the age of 25  after watching J.P. Elkabach’s documentary on Auroville, which includes a Darshan of the Mother… A musician, bass player in the Paris music scene, he arrived in Auroville where he was offered to work at the construction of Auromodele with Pierre Elouard and Cristo, for this was the need of the time! A film lover and passionate about Cinema, soon enough he started to organise film screenings in Auroville. First in 16mm, then with a set of two 35 mm portable Russian film projectors in Aspiration, and then in different places, like Certitude, the Auditorium at Bharat Nivas, and Fraternity, all under the umbrella of the service he created with friends and called Aurofilm. They would also do film screenings in the neighbouring villages with Poppo, assisted by some young Aurovilians like Selvaraj, Raman and others! SAIIER was created in the early 80s under the inspiration of Shri Kireet Joshi, and Aurofilm was an obvious inclusion.

At Aurofilm, apart from doing research in Cinema and presenting films to the community, Gerard made a number of short films, from documentaries to fiction and poetic or experimental expression. In 1986 he went for a trip to Paris to make a film on Pondicherian Bharata Natyam dancers Pichaya and Vasanty Manet, and there he also worked for nearly a year as projectionist at the French Cinémathèque (equivalent to the National Film Archive).

Sri Aurobindo and Mother have always been his inspiration.

In the early 80s, during the ‘fight’ with the SAS, he was one of the Aurovilians going to jail, wanting to help Auroville to stay free from these ‘forces’. But in 1988 the Auroville Foundation was about to be created and the Government was taking over. Like some other Aurovilians, Gerard (along with his then partner Surya) left for France, only to return at the end of 1994, for good: whatever the situation, Auroville was his home and dream! Gerard and Surya restarted the film screenings in the Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, upgrading the film projection with good professional 35 mm machines made in Pondicherry from an Italian model! These “Friday movies” are since a few years now happening at MMC, which welcomed Aurofilm when the Auditorium at Bharat Nivas was closed for long lasting repairs. Gerard always took great care of the choice of films screened in Auroville, choosing them from all over the world, classics, recent, “difficult” or “slow”, entertaining, and with an emphasis on presenting the richness of Indian Cinema. Regular Film festivals have been conducted every year thanks to his initiative ! His film selection was always aiming at quality and a possible way to uplift our human condition.

The current Aurofilm team will strive to keep up this goal, but already misses him a lot. Since a couple of years, Gerard had started developing Parkinson’s Disease and little by little withdrew from the office and screenings. Last year he moved from his simple studio in Citadines to Marika Home where he was welcomed and gently taken good care of, and where he passed away on Sunday 10 October in the mid-day, quite prepared.

Our love goes out to him, a “peaceful warrior” as a good old friend wrote about him, and we wish him a good journey onward, fully with Mother’s care and smile.

OM~

Ananda

In the early morning of Thursday 26 August, our long-term brother Ananda (Jean-François R.L. Bertaux) left his body at Marika House at the age of 68, after coping with Parkinson’s Disease for many years. The moment of transition had come quite unexpected, as Ananda had moved two days earlier from Fraternity to Marika House and was looking forward to get in better shape and had plans for the future. His partner Michiko and caretaker Raji were with him at the time.

Born in Paris, Ananda discovered there the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in his early twenties. Before coming to Auroville, he stayed in Japan, where he learned Aikido, the Japanese language and teamed up with life partner Michiko, who helped him translate ‘The adventure of consciousness’ into Japanese and made a very first start of establishing an Auroville centre in Tokyo. In 1982, the pair joined Auroville where he picked up on the work of black belter André Pithon who had taught Aikido in Aspiration in the early 70’s. Now an authentic dojo emerged in Fraternity and under Ananda’s guidance, skill and teaching Aikido entered Auroville for good. He also took over the remaining part of the ‘Lotus Fraternity’ unit, producing hammocks, Japanese lampshades and floor mats, while at the same time running a Girls’ Boarding at the entrance of Fraternity (one of whose participants, Raji, was grateful to be by his side at the time of his passing).  At the same time, Ananda started performing accounting services for various units, and since 2009 he functioned as internal auditor of AV commercial units and coordinator of the Auroville Board of Commerce.

Ananda was a linguist with an enormous feel for language; he would learn a language for the sheer fun of it. His and Michiko’s weekly language sessions at Solar Kitchen’s la Terrace, mostly in French but easily expanding into other tongues, were lively and fun and attracted quite a few participants. It was heartening to see this man, who had a friendly, gentle and unobtrusive way of being, growing into his full element, animatedly coming through in various modes of linguistic expression.

Auroville thanks and salutes one of its loyal, steady residents, who in his personal life lived with the absolute bare minimum while giving such a rich and varied service and commitment to the City he loved.

Our warmest condolences and love and strength go out to Michiko.

OM~


For a small clip of Ananda, see: