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~

Bernard Borg

Born in Tunis, Tunisia, on the 4th October 1946, Bernard Borg moved in 1961 with his family to Marseille, in France, while he was still a young boy of 15. He was a French “pieds noirs” (black feet) as repatriated people from Tunisia, Algeria or Morocco used to be called. In Marseille, he studied for a few years at the school of the Beaux Arts, and he always kept alive a strong aspiration for beauty and art. 

Early 1969, he left Marseille for India with his wife, Claude, to be part of the great adventure of Auroville. They arrived in Pondicherry in March and went to live in Promesse where Aurokali was born a few months later.  Then they shifted to Pondicherry and worked at Kali Guest House while teaching in the Ashram school. It wasn’t Bernard’s idea to be in the Ashram and it did not suit his restless and undisciplined temperament. Nevertheless, it gave him the wonderful opportunity to meet The Mother every Wednesday. 

At the end of 1972, Mother asked Bernard to shift to Auroville. About him she remarked: “We have been severe to this man, don’t you find a change in him? I feel that there is an aspiration in him.” And that’s how Bernard, Claude and Kali finally moved to the storeroom of Auroson’s home, in Certitude, turning it into a nice little house. During this time, Bernard started extracting pebbles behind Promesse for the construction of Auroville. 

After a year, the family moved to Aspiration. While there, Bernard bought a lorry and a tractor to transport materials for the construction of Matrimandir. Possessing only basic English, he also did some fund raising in India with Alain Bernard. A very funny idea and a good experience! But it is through these attempts, these impulses and actions that we learn the only indispensable thing: how to stay tuned to the “Mother”s frequency”.

In the meantime, in 1974, a second little girl had arrived, Aurokripa, born in a hut in Aspiration.

A few years later, on the 29th May 1976, what should have remained a splendid joke, an unbridled act of youngsters—the event of the taking over of Navajata’s “Aspiration Hut” turned badly: eight Aurovilians found themselves in prison the same evening, taken away like criminals by armed police.

Bernard was one of them, of course. Auroville was shaken, divided, violently bruised at times, but after the intervention of the Central Government, freed in large part from the power of the Agency that was supposed to protect it, Auroville continued its path.

Bernard remained very present during these years. The graft had taken well. But other trials were to come, one after another, like waves in a storm. 

It was Satprem, a brother who helped so many willing Aurovilians to keep their eyes on Mother. He was the one who wiped out the bulk of the storm. And then, again, time passed, the difficulties took another form… the Administration, for the new status of Auroville was not Bernard’s strong point. 

From Aspiration, they moved to Auromodèle. There, Bernard had several cows and started a little farm. Claude planted, planted and planted overturned badly:  50 000 trees in Auromodèle area. Many of the big trees today are standing straight, witnessing the labour of that time. 

In 1976, they moved to a chosen piece of land near Certitude, between Pitchandikulam and the construction site of the Matrimandir. Bernard named it Sharnga, the name of Krishna’s bow which never misses its target. 

The family moved on the land in a rudimentary shed. Satprem came several times to Sharnga to visit Bernard, Claude and the little Kali and Kripa.

The house to be built was designed in jail by Bernard and Jean Pougault. The structure of the roof was built in Toujours Mieux, Aspiration, and carried across the fields by foot from there to Sharnga by 50 men. That was really another time… 

Sharnga is Bernard’s personal story…

During these years, the struggle to secure Auroville continued, there was to be another arrest of a much larger group of people gathered around the Banyan Tree, who were kept in custody for a few days in Villupuram jailhouse. Bernard, of course, was again part of them.

One can only remember a few of the projects that took place in Sharnga because Bernard was not short of daring dreams! In the early days, he set out to produce tomatoes for Pour Tous. He grew them under large nets, but the heat was too much. The next project was a dairy. It is not clear how long it lasted, but one day the cows left Sharnga to form the start of an Aspiration Farm.

Soon after, Bernard started his most useless project, the most ambitious, the most difficult, but the most aesthetic. He fell in love with a horse called Ashwa. He decided to breed and raise thoroughbred      horses destined to race in Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai… The horses were beautiful, they needed fresh rain, drizzle, soft ground and tender grass. But Auroville could not compete with Normandy, everything had to be created artificially. It was an endless, colossal job, against a nature more favorable to the goats and the small cows of Tamil-Nadu. But the horses were beautiful… The dream was stronger than the hurdles.

Land was bought, the farm grew, water ponds, grazing fields, training tracks were built and Sharnga expanded.  As the community grew, grazing fields were transformed into residential houses. Finally, in 1993, the horse breeding activity exhausted itself, and the stables were transformed to welcome Newcomers. So many Aurovilians came for the first time to Auroville and got hooked, connected, touched, while living in Sharnga.

Meanwhile, Bernard had a new family, a third little girl was born to  him and Sigrid, his new partner. Mirrabelle was born in 1995 and the area slowly grew into the beautiful lush guest house we know today. Bernard’s life went on with another wife, Shanti and her daughter, Saoumya, that he took in.

So many remember Bernard’s character, with the generosity of a heart bigger than words can express, a very strong vitality, loving to provoke, shout, extremely sensitive and always expecting the best from people. He was totally in love with Mother. He had given himself to her, and was completely devoted to her Dream. 

Pioneer, artist, creator, builder, he worked with an inexhaustible energy, walking and pacing Sharnga all day, all night, doing, following, having everything under his scrutiny and control. When he would sit with his guests and friends for dinner he would entirely open up, share and communicate something of the essential with the people in front of him and many have been moved, called, and connected with The Mother through him. He had the gift not to judge, and he believed in people when everybody else had given up on them. 

The last months of his life demonstrated the love, devotion and surrender he had for Her. In full trust, and as Her son, he gave himself back to Her. 

The night before his last day he felt an intense well being and, a few hours later, peacefully left us with a deep breath on the 28th of November 2021 at 5:20 pm.

Kripa

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.


Davide Montemurri

On Sunday 4 July Davide Montemurri, a longtime participant and friend of Auroville, peacefully left his body in his house at Nettuno (Rome). He was 91 years old.

Davide has been in contact with Auroville for many years, especially since he did the ‘L’homme après l’homme’ (Man after Man) movie in collaboration with Boni Menato. The documentary, which was an eye-opener for many, included in-depth conversations with Satprem in Nilgiris in the early eighties. Together with Boni, he also started the Italian Institute for Evolutionary Research.

Davide remained very inspired by Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s vision. A friend who was with him during his transition mentioned that he had been preparing himself to leave his body since March this year, and that he passed away peacefully, his eyes open and a smile on his lips. We remember him with fondness and gratitude.

OM~

For an integral version of ‘L’homme après l’homme’ see:

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~