Christine Besson

In the evening of Sunday 25 September, our friend and sister Christine Besson left her body at Marika Home, where she had been taken two weeks ago as her struggle with lung cancer became critical. She was 65 years old.

Christine came from France to Auroville in 2008. Having worked in the Parisian banking world, her accounting skills were readily welcomed by the Financial Service where colleagues remember her as a kind and pleasant person to work with.

She moved into Vikas, where she lived an unobtrusive, reserved and solitary life. True to her lifestyle, she expressed the wish to have no visiting hours at Farewell after her passing. Her remains were cremated at the Auroville mandapam in the afternoon of Wednesday, October 28th.

Our warmest condolences go out to her mother and sister whom she visited every year.

Farewell, dear sister, thank you for having been with us.

OM

Doris

On Sunday evening 11 September at 9.02 pm, our dear friend and sister Doris van Kalker (born Griethe) quietly left her body at the age of 76 in Mahalakshmi Home where she had been taken on the 9th of August to recover from a fall. Doris was coping with Myeloma which these last months had been rapidly aggravating, causing unbalance and difficulty with walking, and eventually her demise.

Born in from Germany and after studying anthropology, Doris worked as Lufthansa stewardess in the 70/80s, traveling to all corners of the world and loving it. In an interview with AV Today much later on, she mentioned “I remember how once in the information room where all the flight crews used to meet, someone had an article on Auroville and read its Charter out to us. “Traumtaenzer (dreamdancers)!”, I laughed and immediately forgot about it. But one thing did stick with me for years – Mother’s reference to never-ending education…”

The time came that she had enough of the hectic life and at the end of the 90s she accompanied a friend to Auroville. “When I climbed out of the taxi in the middle of the night at Centre Guesthouse and put my feet on Auroville’s earth, I somehow knew I had arrived somewhere very special.” Returning for good in May 2002, she stayed for a year in Sailam, lived in various places as a house sitter, and worked at the Auroville website with Mauna and Manoj in their office at Aurelec. When two years later the Indian Ocean’s tsunami struck and Doris, then Auroville’s webmaster, started posting images online of the havoc created in township and villages, she felt “that something new was happening to me by being exposed to this remarkable experience and that soon my life would take on a different direction.”

It did. Seeing the enormous post-tsunami clean-up work and Auroville outreach projects spontaneously emerging in the fishing villages nearby, she observed in a meeting that it all should be documented. As is bound to happen in Auroville, someone said “Go get a camera and do it!” and that was it. Her first 10-minute ‘Tsunamika’ clip was soon born. Being “shocked when I learned that so little of Auroville’s history had been recorded, I knew that was where my path lay. Auroville is an experiment and it should be documented”, she got in touch with Auroville film maker Basile, studied him at work, and grew into her element: documenting the emerging city. This was her way of life: she would take up something new, involve herself fully, getting the equipment needed, researching the topic, plastering her white board with information and then doing it with all her being. At the time, she also moved to Arati.

Having teamed up with Francis and founding ‘Auroville Video Productions’, from then on the pair steadily produced treasures such as ‘Matrimandir, a labour of love’ chronicling its construction and olden-days inspiration; ‘The Second Generation’ and ‘Born at the Right Time’ about the children who had grown up here, as well as the moving ‘Interview with Serge’, the musical ‘Sorcery at Sea’, the ‘Sacred Groves’ project, ‘The Retreat’…, and many more filmed interviews and performances with little fun AV moments captured in between.

When several years ago the Auroville Archives shifted to its new place adjacent to the Multi-Media building, Doris gladly moved in and painstakingly built up the AV Digital Archives, a centralized repository of the various existing AV archive materials with state-of-the-art software and know-how, containing some 350+ videos on Auroville, and more. The rather abrupt take-over of the Archives in June of this year left her deeply shocked and hurt but not disheartened, as she wrote to a friend: “There is still hope, we can turn it still around, that’s what I as a strong believer in Mother believe.”

During the last weeks in Mahalakshmi Home, where Doris had expressed her open readiness to gently and naturally fade away, many Aurovilians passed by to give her a last hug and bid her farewell, and were touched by the sweetness in the air.

Thank you, Doris, for having shared your generosity, creative spirit and wit with us. Go capture the Beyond, – you’ll live here in all the footage you created…

Our warmest condolences and strength go out to her partner Francis, close friend Stephanie and all her other friends.

OM~

Bruce Elliot

This is to inform the community that at the noontime of Monday 22 August, our brother Aurovilian Bruce Elliot left his body at the age of 82 at Marika’s Home after coping with metastatic throat cancer.

Originally from Massachusetts, USA, Bruce came to India in the nineties and lived several years in the Ganeshpuri Ashram near Mumbai. From there he joined Auroville in 1999 and was confirmed as Aurovilian in November 2000, working at Matrimandir Nursery. Because of gradually deteriorating health, he had to stop working and devoted his time to the study of Sri Aurobindo’s works and authoring a book on him.

As he lived as a recluse, we will mostly remember him for his twice-a-day walk -always seemingly in a hurry- from Prarthna to Solar Kitchen for his meals, with a peaceful and light expression on his face. Since April this year, he was taken up in Marika’s Home and was very appreciative of the kindness of the people around and the quality of care he was given.

As per Bruce’s specific wishes, there has been be no visiting or viewing at Farewell; his remains were cremated at Auroville’s mandapam on August 23rd.

Fare well, Bruce. We will meet again!

OM~

In Memoriam: Shraddhavan

Shraddhavan is the Sanskrit name given by the Mother in June 1972 to a young Englishwoman who left her country to join the upcoming project of Auroville in 1970. Shraddhavan means ‘one who has faith in the higher being’. She fully embraced her name.

She was born Anne Margret Robinson on June 4th, 1942. Her father was a protestant pastor and her mother, Winnie (known to many in Auroville), was a teacher. Before leaving England, she studied English Language and Literature as well as Library Science at Bristol University. Before coming to Auroville she traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, including India, and Australia.

When she arrived in Pondicherry in November 1970, she was sent by the Mother to Auroville to teach in the newly started school in Aspiration.

In Last School 1974

But the work for which she will always be remembered is her work as Project Coordinator of Savitri Bhavan, which along with her partner, Helmut, she built up from its inception.

Savitri Bhavan

Shraddhavan undertook an in-depth study of the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. She was a teacher, a poet (she published a book of her poems ‘Stars in the Soup’), a translator, a researcher, an efficient administrator, and above all a great sadhak. Several of her poems, stories, essays, articles, and book reviews have been published in the Ashram journal Mother India, Heritage magazine, Collaboration, etc. She was the editor of the journal Invocation: Study notes on Savitri. She has been honored with the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ by the Overman Foundation on 18 November 2012.

Shraddhavan conducted classes on The Life Divine, Essays on the Gita and Savitri. Many AVI centres were happy to have hosted her for her classes in their countries and via Zoom link. They continue with regular classes guided by Shraddhavan’s books and videos.

Savitri Study Group in Holland

The depth of her understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s mantric epic poem Savitri was reflected in her classes, the joy her students experienced during her Sunday Savitri Study Circle, which have been going on for the last 25 years, and her ‘English of Savitri’ classes.

The Savitri Study Circle

Her sentence by sentence explanations of Sri Aurobindo’s great epic have been transcribed into 12 volumes, the last two volumes are in the stage of publication. They are an unparalleled guide for Savitri lovers around the globe.  Shraddhavan declared that this was her life’s work.

Late last year, she gradually began to fade away and left her body on July 19th 2022 aged 80 years.

As the Mother wrote in Prayers and Meditations:

Some give their soul to the Divine, some their life, some offer their work, some their money, a few consecrate all of themselves and all they have – soul, life, work, wealth; these are the true children of God.

Shraddhavan – A True Child of the Mother

Helmut, Judith and Dhanalakshmi
on behalf of the Savitri Bhavan Team

Shraddhavan

This is to inform the community that our sister Shraddhavan of Savitri Bhavan on 19 July 2022 left her body in the Sri Aurobindo’s Nursing Home where she had been taken several weeks ago. She just had become 80 years old. In November 1970 she came to Pondicherry and met the Mother who accepted her for Auroville.

Shraddhavan has been with us since 1971 and was the initiative taker of Savitri Bhavan and its main guiding force.

Our gratitude and prayers go with her.

OM~


Shree Krishna, Himself has pronounced the term ‘Shraddhavan’ (Adorer) while narrating the Bhagavad Gita.

‘The one who performs Bhakti is a Bhakta. However, we must not forget that the one who remains within the Devotion Sentience (Bhaktibhav Chaitanya) is the real Bhakta that is – the ‘Shraddhavan’.

Shraddhavan is the Sanskrit name given in June 1972 by the Mother to an English woman who joined Auroville in 1970. After studying English Language and Literature at Bristol University in the U.K., she travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Australia before coming to Auroville, where she lived ever since, played the role as an educator, translator, editor and writer. Several of her poems, stories, essays and book reviews have been published in the Ashram journal Mother India as well as in Heritage magazine.

Since August 1999 she had been the Project Coordinator of Savitri Bhavan, a centre of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Studies which is a unit of SAIIER (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research). She edited the Savitri Bhavan’s journal, Invocation: study notes on Savitri and led study courses on Savitri and The Life Divine.


ABOUT SAVITRI BHAVAN

We dream of an environment in Auroville
that will breathe the atmosphere of Savitri
that will welcome Savitri lovers from every corner of the world
that will be an inspiring centre of Savitri studies
that will house all kinds of materials and activities to enrich
our understanding and enjoyment of Sri Aurobindo’s revelatory epic.
that will be the abode of Savitri, the Truth that has come
from the Sun.

Shraddhavan (for Invocation journal)

submitted by Uma
Melin, Shraddhavan’s friend and collaborator

Daniel Brewer

This is to inform the community that in the late afternoon of July 3rd Daniel Brewer, one of Auroville’s early pioneers and co-founder of Kottakarai community, passed away at the age of 84 in his home in Sayulita, Mexico.

As so many individuals in those days, Daniel left his home place in southern California in the mid-sixties and started traveling eastwards overland from Europe, arriving in India in 1969. A year later he joined, along with his then partner Iris and young son Mitra, the early residents living in the ‘Silence’ community, located at the site of the then still future Bharat Nivas. Understanding that they would have to vacate when construction began, and armed with Auroville property maps, the small team went on the look-out for a place to start a new living space. When they found a suitable location just outside Kottakarai village, and Mother gave her blessing for the same, the beginning of Kottakarai community started in close collaboration with the villagers nearby.

As Andrea, Daniel’s wife once reminisced in an AVI USA’s newsletter: “Daniel’s gracious relation with the villagers! Tamil is one of the oldest living languages on the planet and exceedingly complicated. Daniel spoke Tamil with surprising fluency, even able to make jokes. Besides being involved with planting trees and care of the land, he had become the local cobbler. He was making handsome leather sandals for any and all who needed them, including the villagers who were quite amazed that this vele karan (white man) would stoop to a work that was normally only done by Harijans, the outcasts. Small wonder that the villagers adored Daniel. We couldn’t have had a better ambassador for Auroville in the village of Kottakarai.” “His trips to the village tea stall were essential…” observed another friend of that time.

Daniel built a house on the edge of the large grove of silk-cotton trees and made Auroville his home for the next 8 years, enormously helping Kottakarai community to come about with his hands-on skills, practical experience and always willing demeanour. He has 4 children, three of whom were born in India,  lived in Mexico for the last 22 years and stayed always in touch with the City of Dawn.

We salute a long-ago comrade, with our warmest condolences to his family and his remaining friends in Auroville.

OM~

In the early days of Auroville – Daniel, Hiranya and Hosiah (the donkey)

Marion

This is to inform the community that our dear friend and sister Marion Maekin passed away by suicide in the morning of Monday 13 June. She was 72 years old, and had been struggling with clinical depression.

Originally from UK, Marion came to Auroville in 2014 with her husband Tony, and officially joined in 2016. With her straightforward, direct and friendly nature, she was a much-appreciated teacher in several of our schools and other educational projects, took part in the Aikiyam support group, was involved with the Farewell team as well as with the Tibetan Pavilion, and functioned as a lively and hands-on member of the Auroville child protection group.

Many of us will remember her from the road, on her three-wheeler scooter with on the back her elderly husband Tony, whom she always surrounded and treated with the utmost love and care.

Our warmest condolences and strength go out to Tony and family members abroad, as well as her friends here in Auroville.

May you find peace, dear Marion.

OM~

To remember her, enjoy her choice of music and comments on https://www.aurovilleradio.org/soul-tracks-se2-ep-7-music-from-marion/ recorded in March ’21.

Laura Mosci

This is to inform the community that on June 7th our good friend Laura Nina Mosci passed away in Italy after coping with cancer for several years. She was 62.

Nina joined Auroville in 2001 and was involved in various activities for the community.

We remember her for her spontaneity and zest, and her lively participation in community life.

May her soul have a peaceful journey.

OM~

Auralee

We have been informed that one of the earlier Aurovilians and dear friend Auralee (Audrey McCormick) left her body in the early morning of Wednesday 25 May, in Montreal, Canada.  She was 77, and had been treated for cancer.

Auralee came to Auroville for the first time in 1986, with her two sons, Michale (Shwetaketu) and John. After her keet house in Fertile had burned down, she went back to Canada to return with Shweta in 1996 when she moved into Vikas. During her years here, she worked at Pour Tous, and later as secretary to the Entry Service. Colleagues remember her as an alert, pleasant and friendly person to work with. She and Shwetaketu left Auroville around 2010 for the latter’s higher studies.

Auralee was a serious practitioner of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga. We join her family’s and friends’ prayers for her soul’s peaceful journey ahead.

OM~

Peter Holl

In the late afternoon of Wednesday, 25 May, our long-term pioneer friend and brother Peter Holl passed away in a hospice in Hamburg after coping with cancer for more than a year. He was 74.

Having been part of a Sri Aurobindo study group in Berlin in the very early seventies, ‘Peti’ as he was called (pronounce Peetee), left his job in the banking world, had his father drive him to the autobahn and hitchhiked overland to India, arriving in the Ashram in 1972 where he received Mother’s darshan and lived for some time. At the end of the 70s, after a track in the Himalayas which he made with Helmut whom he knew from the Berlin study group, the two came to Auroville and started the community of Grace in 1979 by building the first keet huts and digging a well.

Being passionately in love with homeopathy, Peti qualified himself thoroughly by following schools and courses in various countries and certainly India. Between his many activities –  such as football and several long bike hikes with his Aurovilian mountain biker friends in the Himalayas, an occasional theatre stint, his lively partnership with Brazilian singer Eliane and walks with Sri M – he functioned as a much appreciated homeopathic therapist, whose calm and subtle healing power and advice touched many. He will be sorely missed.

Peti’s sporting life ended by a fall some fifteen years ago, severely injuring a shoulder, but after recovery he continued his work as therapist with Auroville’s holistic Integral Health centre. When visiting his family in 2020, and discovering the onset of his illness, he was most distraught not to be able to return to Auroville because of the covid epidemic. His love and commitment to the Auroville experiment, its yoga and high call was always up front and guided him through the challenge of these last years. As he wrote last month from Hamburg to a close Auroville friend: “My only recipe now is surrender…, surrender, surrender…”

Thank you, dear Peti, for having been with us so long. May you be hiking the spheres with Godspeed till your return to the City of Dawn.

Our warmest condolences go out to his siblings Marianne and Hans, who have closely stood by him these last years.

OM~