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.