Eric Ramanujam

On 19 March this year, Eric Ramanujam passed away at the age of 58 in PIMS where he had been taken due to advanced jaundice. While perhaps not having met him in person, many of us know his beautiful and educative wild life stone paintings placed in Pitchandikulam, at the visitors walk way to VC, as well as at the ECR toll plaza. Starting out at Aranya in 2000, where he studied, drew and wrote about the Indian Horned Eagle for several years, he later moved to Pitchandikulam where he was employed as wildlife biologist. His detailed, gentle drawings, combining black and white ink with colour, are found in scientific articles, books and papers all over India. A detailed obituary by India’s Sanctuary Nature Foundation is given here below.

Thank you, Eric. May you be in peace.

OM~

Obituary by Prasad Natarajan of the Sanctuary Nature Foundation.

Artist for Wildlife and Nature deeply mourns the death of senior wildlife illustrator and owl researcher Eric Ramanujam!

Eric was very supportive of AWN’s initiative’s and easy to approach. He was readily reachable giving his inputs and suggestions on any project. One of the first artist to come forward to display his artworks in the annual show in 2017.

Eric was employed by Pitchandikulam, a unit under Auroville Foundation, as a Wildlife Biologist. He has a background in the Advertising Industry (which he left because of the skull duggery and deadlines he, as junior staff, had to endure) and took to autecological / behavioural studies of the Indian Eagle Owl and associated nocturnal predators and prey in 1997. Since 2002 he has undertaken field studies of the Kaliveli wetland complex (near Pondicherry), Adyar wetland complex (in Chennai) and Shevroy Hills of the Eastern Ghats. In Pitchandikulam he created an ‘Art Collective’ – a group of wildlife / nature artists / illustrators working together to manifest outputs on a commercial scale. So far, the collective has been successful with working with Government departments (for example, Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust on the Adyar Eco Park and Gulf of Mannar Biodiversity Reserve Trust), Corporates (like WIPRO Technologies) and many NGOs (for example WWF-Delhi) in addition to quite a few private clients. This initiative is our major foray into a ‘studio based’ culture.

Eric Ramanujam authored “In Achilles’ Footstep – Adventures with The Indian Eagle-Owl”. Brilliant illustrations and in-depth knowledge sharing on Owls of India.

His last paper was on Wildlife art and illustration – combining black and white ink drawings in the Threatened taxa Magazine. Link to his paper can be read here: https://threatenedtaxa.org/JoTT/article/view/7455/8010

Eric was Mammal Category Award Winner of 2017 Artists for Wildlife and Nature Annual show.

His contributions to nature art, science and his love for owls will live forever!

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~

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~

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~

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~