Doris

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.

OM~

Bruce Elliot

This is to inform the community that at the noontime of Monday 22 August, our brother Aurovilian Bruce Elliot left his body at the age of 82 at Marika’s Home after coping with metastatic throat cancer.

Originally from Massachusetts, USA, Bruce came to India in the nineties and lived several years in the Ganeshpuri Ashram near Mumbai. From there he joined Auroville in 1999 and was confirmed as Aurovilian in November 2000, working at Matrimandir Nursery. Because of gradually deteriorating health, he had to stop working and devoted his time to the study of Sri Aurobindo’s works and authoring a book on him.

As he lived as a recluse, we will mostly remember him for his twice-a-day walk -always seemingly in a hurry- from Prarthna to Solar Kitchen for his meals, with a peaceful and light expression on his face. Since April this year, he was taken up in Marika’s Home and was very appreciative of the kindness of the people around and the quality of care he was given.

As per Bruce’s specific wishes, there has been be no visiting or viewing at Farewell; his remains were cremated at Auroville’s mandapam on August 23rd.

Fare well, Bruce. We will meet again!

OM~

Daniel Brewer

This is to inform the community that in the late afternoon of July 3rd Daniel Brewer, one of Auroville’s early pioneers and co-founder of Kottakarai community, passed away at the age of 84 in his home in Sayulita, Mexico.

As so many individuals in those days, Daniel left his home place in southern California in the mid-sixties and started traveling eastwards overland from Europe, arriving in India in 1969. A year later he joined, along with his then partner Iris and young son Mitra, the early residents living in the ‘Silence’ community, located at the site of the then still future Bharat Nivas. Understanding that they would have to vacate when construction began, and armed with Auroville property maps, the small team went on the look-out for a place to start a new living space. When they found a suitable location just outside Kottakarai village, and Mother gave her blessing for the same, the beginning of Kottakarai community started in close collaboration with the villagers nearby.

As Andrea, Daniel’s wife once reminisced in an AVI USA’s newsletter: “Daniel’s gracious relation with the villagers! Tamil is one of the oldest living languages on the planet and exceedingly complicated. Daniel spoke Tamil with surprising fluency, even able to make jokes. Besides being involved with planting trees and care of the land, he had become the local cobbler. He was making handsome leather sandals for any and all who needed them, including the villagers who were quite amazed that this vele karan (white man) would stoop to a work that was normally only done by Harijans, the outcasts. Small wonder that the villagers adored Daniel. We couldn’t have had a better ambassador for Auroville in the village of Kottakarai.” “His trips to the village tea stall were essential…” observed another friend of that time.

Daniel built a house on the edge of the large grove of silk-cotton trees and made Auroville his home for the next 8 years, enormously helping Kottakarai community to come about with his hands-on skills, practical experience and always willing demeanour. He has 4 children, three of whom were born in India,  lived in Mexico for the last 22 years and stayed always in touch with the City of Dawn.

We salute a long-ago comrade, with our warmest condolences to his family and his remaining friends in Auroville.

OM~

In the early days of Auroville – Daniel, Hiranya and Hosiah (the donkey)

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.

Dakshina

Dakshina, a dear US-based friend and spiritual sister to many, passed away on 19 February due to cancer. She was the profoundly inspired and inspiring devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who founded Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham in Lodi, California, a haven for weary travellers on the path where numerous Aurovilians and Ashramites have visited and stayed throughout the years. Through her Auromere brand, she distributed books, shampoo, incense and more, of which 10% of the proceeds were donated to Auroville while the balance supported the ‘Lodi Ashram’ as the centre was mostly called. Dakshina also served on the board of the Foundation of World Education and built Mother’s House for guests visiting the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.

We very sincerely salute a true sister and comrade on the path, and our warmest condolences go out to the Lodi family and all her many friends.

OM~

Joan Tomb

A friend, mentor, and guardian angel to many in Auroville. Joan was a strikingly beautiful, generous, strong, independent woman.

Joan heard of the Mother through Dietra (Claire Worden), and in ‘71 she and June Maher traveled together to India to meet the Mother.

On 2nd April 1972, June excitedly phoned Joan and read out this message from Mother:
“It is the hour to be heroic. Heroism in full sincerity.”
“Heroism is not what it is said to be, it is to become wholly unified.”
“We are here to prepare the way for the new creation. For centuries and centuries humanity has waited for this time. You are here at this moment, that is to say on earth, because you chose it at one time. You do not remember it anymore, but I know it. That is why you are here. Well, you must strive, you must conquer all weaknesses and limitations, above all you must tell your ego: ‘Your hour has gone.’ It is the Divine Consciousness which will allow the race to develop itself and the supramental being to take birth.”

Joan later wrote, “Not sure how June received this. We were both very moved. It strengthened the bond that we both felt….and affirmed that ‘YES’, we took birth so as to participate in this work, this process. Not really knowing what it actually meant….to be wholly unified with the new Consciousness…. [which was ] part of the inner process.”

“A year later in ‘72 I left with 3 of my 4 children by ship as a spectacular pink/orange sun set behind us over the San Francisco bridge. Later I learned that color was the shade Mother designated as the Auroville hibiscus.” It became Joan’s favorite color to wear.

In the early years, Joan drove a small moped from Pondy to Auroville. Staying stretches of time in Forecomers, she soon moved to Auroville as a resident. Living in her treehouse, she worked with Pierre Elouard to design and build her house and named the place Recueillement. She always had an open door and a big heart. There were toys in the guest room for children who visited, food in the kitchen, and a comfortable chair to sit on.

For many years, she travelled back and forth from the US to Auroville, and in early 2011, Joan came back to Auroville for the last time, cleared out her house, and handed over the keys to the housing group.

Shortly before her 80th birthday Joan wrote, “Although I miss the babies born in Auroville and the close expressions of spiritual family there, here is the best home for me now. My spiritual family in Auroville live forever here in my heart wherever I reside. I feel the Mother’s presence at work, arranging even details of my life, which was my experience in Auroville as well. So, while the outward has changed, my inner life is the same.”

Joan, at the age of 85, left her body at 3:30 pm on June 23 in her apartment in Tucson Arizona with 3 of her 4 children by her side. She leaves behind 4 children (Laura, Leslie, David, Libby), 4 grandchildren (Pavan, Varun, Ezra, Anna), her son-in-law (Leo Katz), and a great grandson ( Leo Dennis Katz Costa), a grandson in law ( Nic Costa), and 2 life companions (Paul Pinthon and Zach).

Thank you Joan for being a profound part of this spiritual family. We wish you light and joy in your next adventure. Remain close to the Mother.


Joan talking about her life from Auroville Archives


Arya Maloney

We have been informed that Arya (Charles William) Maloney, USA, passed away on 17 April due to a long-term illness. He had just become 80 years old.

While at Columbia University (NYC) working toward his doctorate, he came across Sri Aurobindo’s work which would entirely direct his further life. Already in the late 70’s-early 80’s he was facilitating groups to study the Integral Yoga in Woodstock (NY).

At the end of 1983 he came, along with his then partner Marlenka and 8-year old Ashaman (who both had lived here in the seventies) to Auroville and stayed with them in Verité. A year later he returned to USA where he worked in the various fields of science, philosophy, psychology and spirituality as a teacher and psychologist. His book, Alchemy of the Soul— based on his life, work and spiritual exploration is his contribution to the field of transpersonal psychology.

While he lived in Auroville only shortly,  residents remember him as a caring teacher and effective therapist. Abroad, his wide range of influence enabled Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s yoga and vision to find access to innumerable young and open minds.

Jay MA~


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

Roger Harris

In the early morning of Monday 30 March our dear and long-term friend and brother Roger Harris (USA) left his body at the age of 64 in his Prarthana apartment due to advanced lung cancer. Close friends that had been with him the days before, described him as absolutely lucid, lively, talking about “going on a journey, a short one…”, with deeply shining eyes, and ready to go.

Roger is one of Auroville’s pioneering poets who came to Auroville in the late seventies, starting out at Forecomers, from where he moved to Certitude and eventually Prarthana.  Having travelled all over the world with his diplomatic parents from a young age onward, he was well versed in languages and at home with the phenomenon of language itself. Being a writer, he extensively studied Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s work, particularly Savitri, and this, along with his direct connection with the Dalai Lama and Satprem, added to his widening inner perspective which helped him tackle personal challenges he was confronted with. His articles and poems of the time are joyous, deep and telling. His “Auroville is…” will forever be an iconic ode on the City of Dawn (see below).

Aurovilians knew him in those days as a raconteur par excellence, a dreamer visionary with a wide world of knowledge to tap and always with humour and wit. He was fun to be with, versatile, and strong in his stand for, and faith in, Auroville.

For many years, Roger was a stalwart of the Auroville Today team, lightening its meetings with his impish humour, and writing beautifully on topics as varied as ‘Avlish’ (the Auroville language), the local culture, Satprem, Tibet and, of course, his beloved Matrimandir.

In November 2012, Roger wrote in News & Notes: “Six years ago, I translated ‘The Mutation of Death’ by Satprem. I finished 2 /3 third of the book by myself. Then I had a motorcycle accident and spent six weeks in deep coma. The last two years since my exit from coma, I have experienced a mutation, a little perilous.”

And perilous has been the time indeed during which he grappled with the lost use of the right arm, some control of movement, and increasing general unease. Complaining was not his thing, he would find an outlet in his humour, faith and inner stamina. In fact, in one of his last articles he wrote, “On 29 February, 2012, the ‘Golden Day’ anniversary marking the supramental manifestation on the physical plane on the planet Earth and many universes, my mutation has become miraculous, beautiful, and strange. Before, I used to suffer from depression, but now I wake up every morning just happy to be alive and I thank sweet Mother for that.”

In 2009 AV Press Publishers published a compilation of his work “Alchemies of the Night”, described as “a collection of poems permeated with music. They are songs of an elegant journeyman: sometimes romantic and elegiac, sometimes sensuous and joyful and sometimes powerfully mystical.” That was Roger full out. The book was launched at end of October that year during an evening of poetry, held in the Tibetan Pavilion, where Roger read some of the work, highlighting it from his everlasting perspective of humour.

Now he is free from an increasingly more stressful physical condition. We let him go home with deep gratitude and love; – you will not be forgotten, Roger.

Our condolences go out to his to sisters Alison and Julia who always stayed in touch and visited regularly, and his close friends Ann R, Marush and Olivier, as well as to his caretakers Ilango and Kumar.

Jay MA~


Auroville is…

Auroville is a prayer and a curse
A suspicious sidelong glance
An explosion of silent love.
A temple in the sun
A fractured broken jar
A whisper in the wind
A laughter and a song
A strong fraternal clasp
A blasphemy of the gods.
A golden-bodied truth
A prayer beyond the stars
A battlefield of bliss.
A child against the sun
A golden thought unsung
A flame that is a cry,
Towards an unknown earth
That in our hearts does rest
And slowly comes to birth
Breaking slowly forth.

Roger Harris



We are requested to particularly confirm that his passing is due to a longstanding illness and NOT due to Covid-19.

Joan Ma

William Netter

Dressed in white in his all white room, in his 70-somethings, with white hair, he sits drinking black tea and looking outside into the blue skies. William Netter, born in the USA, and through family ties connected to Hollywood and celebrities of all kinds, seems more like a film director himself in his white director’s chair, pulling strings like a puppet master.

Wild years
“I had more publicity as an American in India than Liz Taylor,” he says. But before India could enjoy his presence, William had spent some wild years in his home country, running a steakhouse in Greenwich Village, being involved in showbusiness and teaching literature. He attended New York’s School of Interior Design at night, went to Foredom University, and joined a Jesuit Order. “I was really way out in those days. Still am… in design.”
Intuition calling

During a visit to Puerto Rico, he felt a strong intuition calling him to India, and went for a 6 weeks tour with some ‘humanity’ professors from the New York area.

“I was totally knocked off my horses when we attended the 1968 New Year’s Day meditation at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. Kireet Joshi showed us around. We then traveled on, returned and joined the inauguration of Auroville before going back. “I was moved deeply,” he recalls.

Back in the US, he started reading Sri Aurobindo and found himself building his first house in the residential zone of Auroville shortly after this first encounter. “I lived in it for 6 weeks, and then gave it to another Aurovilian, Amrita, who still resides on the same spot.”

State Bank of India

William became member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and was appointed by the chairman of the State Bank of India to do the interior design of the bank’s new central office building in Bombay. We cannot tell the whole story as Willam told it to us (we might crack the website space!), so let’s just fast-forward a bit.. The work was completed and the building inaugurated. Shortly after this, a major fire lead to doing it all over again! That’s what one calls Karma yoga, isn’t it?

“Actually, when David Rockefeller visited the final result, he said that it was the most beautiful bank premises in the world. But no-one told me, anyway. I would have made T-shirts!” laughs William. He is indeed very funny. “I used to make the Mother laugh. My name was given to me by her. My brother, the film maker, however, calls me Billy,” says William.

Hollywood

Hollywood; that’s where he envisions his future plans. A movie, directed by at least Steven Spielberg, special effects, state of the art perfection, the works.. The story? Savitri! William has spent the last three years writing and designing a book about his passion, Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem ‘Savitri’. The book is now released and it’s wonderful.

The non-house

Until things get going, he will be staying in the second house he built in Auroville, the non-house. Two hexagons, a pyramid, a ship’s deck, a spiral staircase, lots of triangle shapes, ceramic tiles, inside-outside and, of course, all in white. “The minimal connects with the consciousness. If my work is successful, I’d like people to pause and lower their voices. Comfort is not a big deal with me,” he says.

That’s why the inner chamber of the Matrimandir is his favourite piece of architecture in Auroville. “The inner room was the precise vision of the Mother. Simplicity is everything. All my designs are influenced by this,” says William.

Courtesy: Julietta Kühle