Bryan Walton

This is to inform the community of the passing of Aurovilian Bryan Walton who was among the early pioneers and has always kept strong and live connections with Auroville and many of its old-time pioneer residents. Bryan had been coping with recurring cancer and made the transition on 8 March surrounded by his family in Wisconsin, USA.  He was 80 years old.

Having worked in educational audio-visuals, Bryan left the USA in the mid-sixties for India in search for a better life and eventually came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in June 1971. Along with his then partner Sally, he had several meetings with the Mother who approved of their idea to start a handicraft community as village development work near Kuilapalayam, which she would name ‘Fraternity’. (https://vimeo.com/517078368/e9ada0315b?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=28749)  Although he had no experience in either crafts or business, Bryan felt a deep ‘yes’, and bravely started the Fraternity project in February 1972, now fifty years ago, with many other Aurovilians and his wife-to-be Fanou joining him over the years in the work. The original 15 acres of sand with hard red clay below it and only two palmyra trees on it, flourished in the subsequent years with gradual cultivation of the land and, helped by Poppo, the original keet sheds morphed into permanent handicraft buildings, a kindergarten for workers’ and village children, and an overhead tank for fresh water. The proceeds from the production of handloom and other craft products supported the training of local village women and youth, the running water system for Kuilapalayam, and the kindergarten with daily lunch, medical care and lessons in Tamil. Bryan’s extensive photographic documentation of the progress and life in Auroville at the time form a precious addition to Auroville’s archives.

Pressured by the challenging circumstances Auroville went through in those years, Bryan and Fanou left in 1980 with their two very young children, Auromarichi (Christian) and Aurelia, to USA where they lived in rural Spring Green, Wisconsin. With another couple, they imported art and craft products from Auroville and other parts of Asia, and found markets through their retail store from where they could always be of generous help to Auroville. Bryan also returned to his old skills and developed a virtual treasure of colourful and highly artistic audio-visual presentations, quietly narrated by himself, based on his wide range of interest, and pieced together from his research into Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s works, integral yoga, other inspiring world views, art works, books, articles, pictures and many many hours of work. During his last year he was able to upload most of them, as a fine gift to Auroville, – a complete list with links will be available on the Auroville website. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC85DC0zOXxbzDsyMw5vKdqA)

Bryan was also active member of the Board of AVI USA and served on the Board of the AVI Association since 2007, where his calm participation, dry humour and hands-on knowledge of life in Auroville was an esteemed commodity.

Since mid-2021 Bryan has been coping with a returned, aggressive cancer eventually resorting to two different sorts of chemotherapy. When these Plans A and B did not work for him, Bryan decided to switch to Plan M: “For me, no fear of the Great Adventure of the Spirit with Her, the Mother is with me, she’s with us all.  Since 22 or so coming first back from India, I was ok with the ultimate adventure.“

He now has embarked on that new venture, and we salute and let go, with utmost love and gratitude for this soft-spoken, always friendly co-traveler on the path, who endeared himself in fraternity with so many of his colleagues, workers and co-Aurovilians throughout his life.

Go and Come, dear Bryan!

Our warmest condolences and strength go out to his wife Fanou, and their three children Christian, Aurelia and Leo, their families, and to all his friends both here and abroad.

OM~

Francis in conversation with Bryan & Fanou, 2009
https://vimeo.com/529655760

Bryan & Fanou from Auroville Video Productions on Vimeo.

Sanjeev of SAIIER

In the very early morning of 24 February, our friend and brother Sanjeev Aggarwal of SAIIER passed away in JIPMER due to cardiac arrest at the age of 70.

Sanjeev came from Delhi to Auroville at the end of 1981 and was, with his legal background and formation, the right person to continue from 1992 onwards the immense challenge of bringing to further fruition the Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER), which had been set up in 1984 by Kireet Joshi and Alain Bernard. The Institute now oversees the many schools and other educational projects in Auroville and bioregion, and Sanjeev has been the main drive and pillar of strength in the organisation throughout the years. Certainly his focus on Auroville’s Udavi school in Edeyenchavadi village made the school expand enormously, and the teacher staff and pupils will sorely miss him. Sanjeev’s greatest joy was in enabling young people to discover their goal and potential in the context of Auroville. His very regular tennis and badminton session with his students was part of this approach. He loved the concept of Gurukul and brought up four girls. His continuous support and advice will be missed by many.

Sanjeev also enjoyed being a good host – many fondly remember having him make a cup of tea for them. He was happiest when in the company of small children and will be remembered for his sincerity and generosity.

His other passion was immersing himself in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri. Having been member of the very first Working Committee from 1991 onwards, he continued taking up innumerable administrative functions and, with them, the accompanying complexity and tension. With his strong-willed character and deepest dedication towards the development of Mother’s Auroville, Sanjeev took wholeheartedly part in Auroville’s communal meetings and debates where his absence will be strongly felt. In the last years, he curtailed his administrative work due to stress related problems.

Sanjeev’s body remained at his ‘Mir’ house and was cremated in the afternoon of Tuesday March 1st at the Auroville mandapam with many of his extended family, friends and students attending.

Our warmest condolences go out to Sanjeev’s partner Miriam and their foster daughters Elene, Manjula, Saranya and Dakshini.

OM~

Amit Bawa

This is to inform the community that in the evening of Friday 18 February our dear friend and brother Amit Bawa passed away due to cardiac arrest at the age 48. Hailing from Srinagar, Aamit came first to Auroville in 2008 and became Aurovilian in 2011.

Aamit, with his friendly, outgoing and ever-smiling nature, was a welcome figure in the various Auroville services to which he contributed, such as Deepanam School as learner and facilitator, as member of the Matrimandir Access group at Matrimandir itself and the Visitors’ Centre, as active participant in children’s school camps, and more. In the later years he oversaw Swagatham guesthouse in Bharat Nivas, where he also peacefully lived with his cat family and transformed the gardens into a true flower paradise.

His dedicated and cheerful presence was evident throughout, and he will be sorely missed.

After his parents arrived from Srinagar, Aamit’s remains were cremated at the Auroville mandapam in the late afternoon of Sunday 20th.

OM~

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