Akash Nandkumar

Akash Nandkumar, a gentle soul who always meets everyone with a smile, is no more with us.

He came for Swadharma 5, July-Aug 2018, and after the programme continued to live in Auroville, developing Hempcrete. He was from Kerala, Palakkad, and had done Civil Engineering from Anna University. Hempcrete became his life’s passion and he was working with Auroville Earth Institute (& later with Tom Mo) and pioneering a difficult research and development work. During the lockdown, everything had practically slowed down or shut and his work too was not happening much. He had many personal struggles like everyone else and yet was finding his way through. It seems the difficulties were mounting, and on the 13th of October he chose to leave his body. He was 27 years old.

On 15 October, there was a gathering at the Tibetan Pavilion in his memory.

We will miss him deeply.

May his soul rest in peace and light.

Avinash, Divyanshi, Lalit, Manoj, Siddharth and Valentine (for ACI) & Tom Mo, AVEI Team & friends


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.

Vijayamala

This is to inform that on Tuesday 26 May, Ms Vijayamala Ganapatarao, a long-term volunteer at New Creation’s Creche and Boarding School, passed away due to heart attack at Jipmer at the age of 51.

Mala came from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 2000 and has been living and working in New Creation, co-running the Boarding School with MarieBabu ever since. Always smiling, she was a gentle, kind person who became a beloved member of the NC family. Her gift was art which she shared with countless children as well as at various Auroville events, exhibitions and marathons. She also taught New Creation’s children French, Hindi, painting, drawing, stitching and other artistic activities.

As her health became an issue. Mala spent more time doing her own craft, working from home, but would still assist and help the children as much as possible with their daily homework and art.

Mala will be deeply missed by all New Creation’s family members, young and old.

Her remains were buried at Auroville’s burial grounds in the evening of May 26th

OM~


We here particularly confirm that her passing is NOT due to Covid-19.

Roma Hira

In the later afternoon of 25 April, our good friend and sister Roma Hira (of Roma’s Kitchen) peacefully left her body at her home in Dana due to renal failure with which she had been struggling since a while. She would have turned 73 in September this year.

Hailing from Calcutta, Roma first visited Pondicherry in 1975. This was a seminal moment which cemented her connection and commitment to Sri Aurobindo’s world view. Thereafter, she became a very good friend of Auroville, offering support and material encouragement at a moment when Auroville was going through hard times.

In 1980, in an attempt to improve Auroville’s image in India, a multiple city tour of what was called the Auroville Today Exhibition was arranged by JRD Tata. And Roma was the point person for its Calcutta leg, hosting many of the Aurovilians at her flat. Her Calcutta house subsequently became the pied-à-terre for Aurovilians travelling to Calcutta.

In those early years, Roma used her dynamism and her many connections in the Indian commercial and administrative world to help Auroville’s fledgling commercial units with their marketing and clientele. It was in the mid ’80’s that Roma moved permanently to Auroville and soon after settled into her home in Dana while continuing her work with Auroville’s commercial units, which activity she never stopped. In the first years she was involved in Aurelec’s purchasing department, after which she skillfully functioned as Maroma’s manager for years. She officially joined as Aurovilian in 1992.

Roma was a foodie – she was a chef par excellence- and she liked nothing better than to feed people. To start with she coordinated the food arrangements for seminars and meetings that Auroville hosted (such as the Peace Trees seminars). And people will remember the meticulous planning and rigorous hygiene standards she brought to these events.

Her dream was to have her own restaurant and this was fulfilled when she took charge of what came to be famously known as Roma’s Kitchen in Auromodèle, a place with a reputation for serving gourmet Indian food. Roma’s Kitchen has been featured in magazines and has had a well-deserved recognition for food quality. Over the years, it has hosted and catered to all the important visitors to Auroville.

We let her go with our heartfelt respect and appreciation, knowing that now is her time to receive well-earned sustenance of the highest order. Farewell, dear Roma.

OM~

Roma’s remains were cremated in the morning of Sunday 26 April at Auroville’s mandappam.


We here particularly confirm that her passing is NOT due to Covid-19.

Jayram

It is with shock that we inform the community of the sudden passing of Jayram (Jayaraman Ramalingam) of Arka who, complaining of chest pains, was taken in the evening of 17 March by his family to Nallam Clinic and from there to General Hospital where he left his body around 9pm due to heart attack. On investigation it was discovered that he must have suffered various silent attacks before. He was 38 years old.

Hailing from Kuilyapalayam, Jayram attended New Creation School where he got to know Maria Grazia, who was teacher there at the time. Subsequently he followed an electronics course, worked at New Creation’s swimming pool and always remained in touch with Auroville. At the age of 25 he officially joined and started working at Arka, eventually becoming its manager and executive. Many of our guests will remember him for his ultra-patient, friendly and gentle way of managing things, in a seemingly roundabout way but always having things in strict order.

These last years, Jayram and his wife Ramana lived in Realization with their little son Sanjit going to Nandanam school. His passing is a terrible loss for them, as well as for Arka’s Krishnan and Maria Grazia, who have taken them up as family. Our heartfelt condolences go out to them and other family members in Auroville.

Jayram’s body remained at his brother’s house in Kuilyapalayam near Auroville Bakery during Wednesday 18th, and was cremated at 5pm at Kuilyapalayam’s mandappam.

Farewell Jayram, Auroville and many of its guests will remember you and salute you.

OM~

Mani of FoodLink (G Gnanamani)

This is to inform the community that our good friend Mani (G Gnanamani) of Foodlink passed away in the morning of 20 February succumbing to injuries suffered by a car accident on ECR road the day before. His remains were cremated on 21st in Chinnamudaliyarchavadi. He was 38 years old.

Although he never officially joined Auroville, Mani was known to many who frequented FoodLink, where he was a steady and responsible presence since February 2012. Most of the FoodLink clients may know him from the FoodLink desk, registering their selected items in a friendly and totally concentrated way; his colleagues describe him as a very honest and straightforward person, always serious but also great fun to be with, and who will be sorely missed.

Mani leaves behind his wife and two young children in Bharatipuram. Our heartfelt condolences with this terrible loss go out to them as well as to the FoodLink team.

Subash Chandra

This is to inform the community that in the morning of Saturday, 1 February, our good friend and brother Subash (M.S. Subash Chandra) passed away in Mahalakshmi Home, surrounded by his AVHS caretakers and friends. He had just become 74 earlier this month and had been battling Parkinson’s disease since several years.

Born in Madurai, and after obtaining an B.E. (Electrical) at Madras University, Subash read some texts by Mother and Sri Aurobindo which deeply touched him. He travelled to Pondicherry in 1971 for Mother’s public darshan with as result that, at the age of 27, he joined Auroville in 1973 where he became part of the Last School team in Aspiration. It may have been here that his interest in education began. However, as he gradually felt the need for a more personal guidance in his spiritual development, he left Auroville at the end of ’74 to join a karma yogi elsewhere with whom he stayed for 18 years.

Having been introduced to various methods of education during that time, Subash returned to Auroville in 1994 in order to conduct a 4-months experiment with 12 kindergarten children of New Creation Bilingual (now Aikiyam) School, using the Glenn Doman Word Flash Cards method which he wanted to test on their authenticity and usefulness. This was one of the first such efforts in Auroville. It proved successful and from there he became a much-appreciated teacher at the school’s primary level.

In 1996, when Lisa left Isai Ambalam school, he was asked to take over and this became the love of his life. He continued studying and applying more alternative educational approaches, one after another, and trained the teachers to use them.  At the same time, he wrote a number of papers on these various systems, bringing them to the attention of many schools in Tamil Nadu. He also conducted ‘Consecration’ and other workshops and week-ends, introducing young Aurovilians and residents in the bioregion to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. When several years ago the STEM Land Project started in the school, its educational direction somewhat changed, while still integrating the use of these effective innovative approaches for maximizing the learning of the students.

Subash was determined in getting education to whomever needed. He started out in a small house in New Creation, from where he moved to Isai Ambalam, then Creativity, and this last half year he remained in Mahalakshmi Home, where he bloomed up through the round-the-clock, loving attention from the residents and AVHS ladies. Many of his students will dearly miss him and pray for his good journey to the Light, and so does Auroville with love and gratitude.

Subash’s remains were taken to the Crown Road Farewell Centre and were buried on Sunday morning, 2 February, with members of his family, Isai Ambalam staff, students and friends attending.

Arusha

This is to inform the community that Arusha Shridhar Drouin passed away yesterday, 30 November, at the age of 40 after a long battle with cancer. She was a Friend of Auroville and volunteered as a teacher in Deepanam.

She leaves behind her husband, Thomas Drouin and their daughter, Norah.

The cremation took place on December 1st  at the cremation ground in Muthialpet, near Sivaji Ganesan statue.

Our deepest condolences to her family.

OM~

Nilesh

Our good friend and brother, Nilesh Premji Nisar of Arc-en-Ciel community, passed away around midday on Tuesday 5 November 2019, at the Kidney Centre in Pondicherry at the age of 49. He had suffered weak kidneys for quite some time and needed frequent dialysis treatment. His wife Geeta was with him during his transition.

Hailing from Bombay, Nilesh, Geeta and their young son Aditya arrived in Auroville in 2000. He had a clear penchant for business and, after an initially somewhat difficult time in finding his right place, he started working among others with Upasana and Naturellement. He also supported Auroville’s commercial units in discovering new markets and retail outlets across India. The couple’s ‘Natraj’ unit, which makes high-quality food products, has developed a reputation with food connoisseurs and conscious consumers.

Our warmest condolences and strength go to his wife Geeta, who enormously contributed to the setting up of ‘Natraj’, and their two sons Aditya (24) and Harsh (15).