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: 

Janet

On Sunday 8 August at 7.20am, our dear friend and sister, long-term Canadian Aurovilian Janet Fearn quietly and peacefully slipped away from her body after weeks of gently fading during which loving contact with family members and friends always remained.  The transition took place in her own Arati home with L’aura and Raji by her side. Janet had been encountering cancer for 2.5 years; she would have been 80 in September.

In her own words:

“I discovered Auroville in 1968 following a year of traveling, and a few months in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. After spending a day in Auroville helping a friend build his house, I moved into a hut with 2 other people situated where the Matrimandir Gardens are now. A little later I asked the Mother if I could stay and when she said yes, I built my own hut where the MM Nursery is today. I lived there for 2 years, surviving, planting trees and learning about the villages.”

In 1970 Janet went to Canada to raise funds for a well, returned in ’72, and moved into the Centre Field house that had come free at the time, enlarging it throughout the years to accommodate her various activities. While naturally also working at Matrimandir, in 1973/74 she cycled every day to Alankuppam and Pettai to show village women how to crochet. Just before Sukrit was born in 1975, she built a workshop next to her house so the women would come there to work. Her Joy Handicraft workshop (named Joy after the name that Mother had given to her original house) eventually focused more on knitting and continued until 1992. It was then turned into a backpacker guesthouse which catered as ‘College guesthouse’ to students from Living Routes and other international student groups. Janet ran this guesthouse until 2008. Later daughter L’aura would live in the place.

Meanwhile “I became interested in Auroville’s organization in the 80’s and was on the “executive council”. This was before the Auroville Foundation Act was ratified in 1988, so there was no Working Committee. Later the Working Committee replaced the executive council, and many of us felt that something was needed to look after internal affairs that did not concern the Auroville Foundation directly, and the Auroville Council eventually came into being. I was very active in organizational work at that time, and many different things were tried.”

Since 2005 Janet was also a very active member of the Aikiyam School Support Group, enabling the school to considerably develop over the years and having great joy in seeing how school, teachers and children thrived in the happy environment. It was only when her health situation demanded it that she left the school.

Throughout the years Janet had become involved arbitration and conflict transformation, and wrote in 2017: “Over the years my understanding of how we need to be organized has changed as I have observed the gap between Working Groups and the rest of the community. This gap does not seem to be related to who is on the groups. A certain mindset seems to takes over when one feels entrusted with a lot of responsibility, which does not encourage the growth of collective intelligence or respect the potential of the community at large. I think we need a systemic change to a kind of organization where the distribution of power is more equal. . . .  I believe that if Auroville wants to become more leading edge it must be organized with more shared power and have structures that encourage the growth of collective wisdom. I think Restorative Circles is one way of contributing to this change so it is where I intend to focus my energy for now.”

Just these last years during her illness, Janet has been steadily working on her “Memories of Auroville 1968 – 1973”, now posted online and hardcopy to be published soon. Her always upbeat and defiant approach toward obstacles in life, refined style and innate anchoredness in the Mother, combined with her close relationship with both L’aura and Sukrit, helped her come through these last years with stubborn courage and grace.

We salute a true pioneer on her way to the Grace. As one Aurovilian wrote: “Your quiet, confident, unflinching and focused contribution to the organisational structures and policies of Auroville will never be forgotten.”

Our warmest condolences go out L’aura, Sukrit and Aurosylle, and granddaughter Ishana.

OM~


For ‘Janet in conversation w Francis 2008’, click https://vimeo.com/584511080

Janet in conversation with Francis, 2008 from Auroville Video Productions on Vimeo.


M.Durai

This is to inform the community that in the morning of 26 June, our friend and brother Aurovilian Durai Munusamy passed away at the age of 55 due to suicide near his house in Agni. Hailing from Edeyenchavadi village, Durai had been with us since ’92 and worked at Savitri Bhavan as garden supervisor.

His remains were cremated in the afternoon of the same day.

Thanking Durai for having been and worked with us so long, we extend our deepest condolences and strength to his wife Uma Lakshmi and their children, 12-year old twins Lithika and Rohith.

OM~

Jothi

With a heavy heart we inform the community that Aurovilian A. Jothi passed away at Jipmer hospital in the afternoon of 28 May.

Jothi joined Auroville in 2005 after marrying Ganesh. A happy spirit, she worked at FarmFresh for 5 years, then at PTDC for five years, and the past 1.5 years at Sunship.

Since 2018 she had been suffering from an auto-immune disease. Two weeks ago she contracted Covid19 and was admitted to Jipmer. Her body was cremated on 29th afternoon in Karuvadikuppam.

Our condolences go out to her husband Ganesh. Their daughter Sagarika and son Avinesh.

OM~

 

Nolly Senden

In the afternoon of Monday 17 May, long-term Dutch Aurovilian Nolly Senden, who had been taken two days before to JIPMER because of serious Covid symptoms, passed away there due to a stroke. She was 85. Since January she had been recovering in Mahalakshmi Home from a leg injury, and after she started showing symptoms and was tested positive, she was brought back to her house in Samasti, taken care of by a qualified nurses & doctor team. From there she eventually was taken to JIPMER. She had not taken any vaccination.

At the end of the eighties, Nolly started frequently coming to Pune, India, to be trained as a qualified Iyengar hatha yoga teacher, and started visiting Auroville at the same time. Having completed the study, in ’92 she came for good, just in time to make sure that the then budding Pitanga Hall was foreseen with a Yoga Hall. Thank you, Nolly! She also built a Pitanga caretaker house on the side, where she lived during several years.

From the moment the hall was ready, she would be seriously, persistently teaching hatha yoga to increasingly large groups of eager residents, at times gaining the ‘General’ nickname through her no-nonsense, commanding approach. Also, in her work as executive of SEWA, as well as in her dealing with the many workers who worked with her during the years, she would show her sternness, dedication and, at the same time empathy and compassion. After suffering a mild stroke, Nolly stopped teaching yoga and moved to Sri Ma for some five years to then eventually build her final house at the outskirts of Samasti.

During the months that she remained in Mahalakshmi Home, where she was fully taken care of and 24 hours a day attended to, this strong, no-nonsense and independent woman may have received and enjoyed the love, warmth and sympathy she may have quietly longed for.

Thank you, Nolly, for having been with us, may you be in peace. Our warmest condolences go out to her sisters and brother in Holland.

OM~

Renzo Pezzato

In the evening of Sunday 16 May, Italian Aurovilian Renzo Pezzato, left his body at the age of 67 at JIPMER having been taken there because of high Covid symptoms. He had been in ICU for several days.

Renzo came from Treviso, Italy, where he worked for years as Head of one of Italy’s Electrical Departments, after which he became quite proficient in glassblowing (Murano Glass).

In 2019 he came to Auroville and was accepted as Aurovilian the year after. Initially working at Matrimandir gardens and being a very technical person, he gradually gravitated towards AuroService, at which unit he took up the drip irrigation arrangement for the City Center. He lived in Vikas and people who worked with him knew him as a gentle, kind person with a strong sense of service, certainly for people in need.

Thank you, Renzo, for having been with us; we will meet again.

OM~

 

Kamla Tewari

Dr. (Major) Kamla Tewari, MBBS, DGO, left her body peacefully on September 29, 2020 at 1830 hrs, surrounded by her loving family.

Kamla was born on 4th April 1927 in Jammu. From a young age, Kamla had made up her mind to study medicine, completing her MBBS degree at Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi in 1950. This was also the year she married a young army officer, Krishen Kumar Tewari (later Krishna).

The next few years found her raising three daughters and volunteering her medical expertise at free clinics and welfare centers. Following her father’s guidance, she never charged private fees, in service to our young and developing nation. She and Krishna lived by this ethos all their lives.

Her life changed dramatically in November 1962, when Krishna was taken prisoner of war on the Himalayan heights during the short but brutal India-China war. With three children, and no income (Krishna’s salary stopped the day he went missing in action) and determined to support herself and her daughters, she joined the Indian Army as a doctor. Her fourth daughter was born in 1965, and in the next many years she and Krishna juggled their military postings with their family life. They were both posted in Calcutta, in 1971, when India and Pakistan went to war over what became independent Bangladesh. This war awakened in both a deeper quest; a moment when they discovered Sri Aurobindo’s world view. Visiting Pondicherry with their daughters, they were present on 21st February 1972 for the foundation of the Matrimandir and Mother’s birthday. On the 22nd of February Krishna, Kamla and the girls were given a personal Darshan by Mother in her room. This moment had life altering consequences for all.

Upon retirement from the army in 1976, they moved first to Pondicherry, and then to Auromodel where Krishna started a farm while building their house. Kamla worked at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram dispensary in Pondicherry, and the rural Health Center in Aspiration, abutting Kuilapalayam, which The Mother had  started. Her presence energised the Health Centre, and for years she ran an active maternity and birth control clinic, helping to deliver close to a thousand babies. She thought nothing of hopping upon the back of cycles or motorcycles in response to midnight calls to help deliveries, both at the Health Centre and at remote Auroville settlements, working sometimes with only the illumination of kerosene lamps.

While a qualified Allopath and gynaecologist, Kamla’s preference was for homeopathy and her practice expanded to include what she called the Multipurpose Health Centre located in Certitude and later Bharat Nivas. Many Aurovilians and villagers lined up for her treatment, not least because her deeply intuitive therapeutic approach included a warm and sympathetic listening ear. In the early years, Aurovilians will recall a seemingly driverless peach coloured Jonga hurtling down the dirt tracks of Auroville, her diminutive figure wrestling the controls behind the wheel!

Kamla lived through many momentous events and broke many barriers. She did not let herself be limited by the opportunities available to women, qualifying as a doctor at a time when few women chose that route, and making her husband-to-be wait while she finished her medical studies. She was an accomplished sportswoman, horse rider, hiker, and swimmer, and won prizes for her prowess on the shooting range.

The house Krishna and Kamla built in Auromodel in 1980, Aurogriha, was where she chose to leave her body surrounded by her family, having dedicated nearly half her life to Auroville.

Kamla’s beloved life partner of nearly 66 years, Krishna, departed in 2016, at the same age, 93, as she is now. She leaves four loving daughters: Uma, Deepti, Abha and Shubha, sons-in-law Yogesh, Arjun, Claude and Narayanan, and grandchildren: Rohan, Ruchir, Smiti, Achala and Kabir. Much of her family have dedicated their lives to Auroville in no small measure influenced by her deep ethos of service, her indomitable courage and can-do spirit that triumphed over every obstacle.

She leaves a legacy of many lives touched and changed forever by her love, patience, and ability to deal with anything that came her way with unflappable presence of mind.



Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, leading scholar of Indian culture, art and art history, and Padma Vibhushan awardee, passed away on September 16, 2020 at her Delhi home, at the age of 91. She was a member of the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation from 1991 till 1999, and was, as India’s Representative to UNESCO’s Executive Board, one of the moving forces behind the celebration in October 2008 of Auroville’s 40th anniversary at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.

Kapila Vatsyayan was known as the Great Dame of Indian Arts. Her life was marked by the exploration and promotion of virtually every dimension of India’s rich and varied culture. She was not only an internationally celebrated scholar but an institution builder, laying the foundations for a sustained and deep-going study of the intricacies of India’s artistic traditions.

“In the passing of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan the nation has lost a woman of great learning and erudition,” wrote Dr. Karan Singh in his eulogy. “Over six decades she has made a significant contribution not only to the administration of the H.R.D. Ministry but to public life and scholarship in general. A prolific author, her work on the Gita Govinda and the Thanjavur temple inscriptions is well known, as is her role in setting up the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, including a special manuscript section to which she contributed a large number from her personal collection. She had a close connection with the India International Centre, serving it as Vice-President for five years and for another five years as President. She nurtured the Asia Project which I had started and expanded its scope which resulted in a number of significant international seminars and publications.”

Her interpretation of arts, culture and literature and Indian Thought, which she shared with thinkers and practitioners in the world of arts, science and philosophy, was phenomenal. She left behind a vast corpus of writings, such as Plural Cultures and Monolithic Structures: Comprehending India, Dance in Indian Painting and The Indian Arts, Their Ideational Background and Principles of Forms.

In recent years she was very preoccupied with questions of ecology. She wanted to highlight how cultures of Asia revered nature as a mother, a source of nurture rather than a dark force to be conquered and harnessed to human greed. She was always interested in climate change and was convinced that India could be an example to the world if only it could return to its traditional reverence for nature and the view that all links in the ecological chain are equally indispensable to saving our fragile planet.

Many Aurovilians, whose lives she touched upon briefly but very profoundly as a Governing Board Member in the early years of the Auroville Foundation, will always be indebted to her. A number of Auroville residents joined the virtual Peace Meeting in memory of Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, on Saturday 19 September 2020, at her residence in New Delhi.