Gildo Pivetta

This is to inform the community that our friend and brother Gildo Maria Pivetta left his body on Friday, 5 April 2019, in Belgium, surrounded by his wife and children. Gildo (most people know him as Guido) had been quite unwell lately and left Auroville last month for Belgium where it was found that a terminal cancer had rapidly spread throughout the body. He was 74 years old.

Gildo who was originally Italian but lived in Belgium with his family before joining Auroville, started his newcomer process in December 2011 and became Aurovilian two years later. After some time in Luminosity, he lived the last two years in Swayam. Being fluent in French, he was individually tutoring pupils from various schools in that language and would, in the French Pavilion premises, tutor anyone else interested in the language as well.

He was an energetic, solitary man, very clean and orderly, not only in life but also in his approach to death. Nearing the welcomed end, he was very calm and clear, being profoundly grateful for what he had received in life.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family.

Francesca Ivanov

In the evening of 24 March 2019, our friend and sister, Aurovilian Francesca Ivanov, passed away yesterday evening, 24 March in a hospital near her native village, Edolo, in northern Italy. She was 48 years old.

Francesca first arrived in Auroville in 2007, and started her Newcomer process in 2009. She soon started working as receptionist at Kailash Clinic. She loved the job and many of us may remember her always busy and very involved and dedicated. In 2011, a year after officially joining Auroville, she had to return to Italy to look for a job that would provide her with resources to be able to live here. Unfortunately, things did not go well for her and at the end of 2015 it was discovered that she had lung cancer.

Francesca never lost hope of returning one day. Auroville was always in her thoughts and words and prayers. Her faith has supported her for all these years without ever making her falter in the certainty of return.

Praying that she now may have returned, our warmest condolences go out to her sisters who stood by her till the end.

Henk van Putten

Our Dutch friend and brother Henk van Putten left his body on Saturday 16 February, at the age of 82. He had been taken to PIMS due to an asthma induced lung complication that flared up after his recent return from Holland. His son Jeroen and nephew Dirk were with him at the moment of passing.

Henk, and his late wife Agnus Gastmans, came to Auroville since 2001 and joined in 2004 for good. Both accomplished artists, they settled in Petite Ferme where they created their art as well. Henk was a quite known designer and sculptor, who worked with various materials such as steel, stone, bronze and wood to form the building blocks of his sculptures and multi-dimensional objects. One finds a good number of his large structures in Auroville, in Visitors’ Centre, along the roads, in gardens and other places. Not a very socially active person, Henk was totally dedicated to his work and was a much-asked artist participating in exhibitions and art fairs across Europe. In 2014 his work ‘Stretching’ won the Liu Kaiqu Excellence Award, Wuhu, China.

After a few days in the Farewell Centre, Henk’s remains were buried at the Auroville burial grounds in the afternoon of 19 February.

Saluting Henk and thanking him for his beautiful art that may enliven Auroville’s landscapes for eons to come, our warmest condolences go out to his son Jeroen and daughter Marjolein in Holland, as well as to Walter and Tina and the wider Gastmans family here on site.


A short interview of Henk talking about his work:


Devayani Martizi

This is to inform the community of the demise of Aurovilian Devayani (Augusta) Martizi, Italian, who left her body in Italy in the early morning of Monday, 11 February 2019, at the age of 72.

Devayani came to Auroville from Findhorn in 2010 and became Aurovilian resident in August 2011. These last years she lived in Swayam, and while being involved in quite a few activities, her main work was for years in PTDC’s kitchen as well as at Matrimandir.

She had been somewhat unwell the last half year and left Auroville in December to have a check-up in Italy, where things must have accelerated.

Friends describe her as a joyful woman, a person full of light, who was extremely happy and grateful to know Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, whom she called her true parents. She often spent time at the Ashram.

Devayani left her body in the presence of her daughter and two sons, in the certainty that she was going to her true home.

With warmest condolences to her family and friends, we thank her for having shared with us her joyful enthusiasm and presence.


Gérard Maréchal

On January 2nd 2019 our long-term friend and brother, Aurovilian Gérard Maréchal, left his body due to a fall caused by a heart failure in his Sukhavati home, at the age of 71. Unfortunately, his wife Fabienne and daughter Aurrimà were in France at the time but returned at the earliest.

Gérard is one of the early pioneers who arrived from France in the 1969-caravan to wholeheartedly give his energies to the Mother and Auroville. Matrimandir was his focus of work and passion from the very beginning while he also took full part in the often-tumultuous life of the community at the time. In the early nineties, he and Fabienne left for Sudan where he oversaw various construction sites through which he was also able to provide work opportunities for Aurovilians. The couple returned in 2004 to then move into their Sukhavati house. Gérard once again returned to Matrimandir, this time at a calmer pace due to some heart condition that started developing.

Quietly introvert, and deeply into Mother, Sri Aurobindo as well as Satprem, it was a wonderful achievement and timely moment for Gérard that an Auroville’s 50th publication of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri with the French translation by Satprem and the original English edition, side by side, has just now come out. This precious book was initiated, driven and put together by Gérard, OM~

Fare well, Gérard, on the way to the Light. Our warmest condolences, love and strength go out to Fabienne and Aurrimà and all his very close friends.


Zackaria

Zack was born in Egypt and had a materially privileged, though lonely, upbringing at a time when Islam was more tolerant, open-minded and progressive.  At a young age he discovered the joy of reading all kinds of literature in his father’s marvelous library and the world of books became his refuge and later his life’s calling pursued through academic studies.
During the tumultuous times ​following ​the revolution in Egypt​ in the 1950’s, after his family lost most of their possessions and his father died, Zack put all of his efforts into his academic studies hoping to win a scholarship to study abroad.  At the age of 20 he realized this dream and found himself doing post-graduate work in Germany. There he became acquainted with Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga through a German compilation, “Der Integrale Yoga” and felt these inspired words filling a void that all his intellectual pursuits had not been able to.
A profound turning point came when halfway through his doctoral program he fell into a severely debilitating depression where life had no more purpose.  At a crucial moment of despair he remembered the Integral Yoga book and gazed at Sri Aurobindo’s photo which shifted something deep within, leading slowly but surely out of the depression and into the beginnings of his spiritual life.   In Germany he met and married his wife, a fellow scholarship holder, but soon found an insurmountable conflict growing between his outer married life and inner spiritual life.  Though his wife was sympathetic and they continued the marriage for 30 years, moving from Germany to Cairo, to the U.S., in the end they parted as dear and respected friends and Zack was free to pursue his sadhana unencumbered.  This led him to Auroville, back to the U.S., to Switzerland, back to Cairo, changing life paths, careers and relationships, still finding the challenge of the outer circumstances at odds with the inner ideal.
Finally at the end of a short visit to Auroville 10 years ago, he received the Adesh, the inner command (and in this case also the outer command) of what he ultimately understood to be a kind of fulfillment of his life’s purpose:  to translate Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s works into Arabic.  In 2008, Zack returned to the Lodi Ashram and devoted half his time to Ashram work and half to his translation work and to the development of his website which served as a vehicle of outreach into the Arab and Islamic world, to allow some Light of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings to penetrate into the chaos and barbarism of fundamentalism that is raging there.  The translation work continued to expand with the publication of 3 books and numerous essays and articles.  He continued to grapple with ways to reach the Islamic psyche in a non-threatening way, inviting Muslim readers to perceive the possibility of a spirituality that grows naturally out of the Islamic faith into a wider Light.
In Zack’s words, “The reason I have left Egypt to spend my remaining years in an ashram dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is that I find this ashram to be, for me, the most suitable place to deepen, in and around myself, that solid peace… the peace on which, in the long run, a divine life can be established on earth”.

Below are links to Zack’s various writings, many autobiographical.  Hope you may enjoy reading through–it is quite a legacy and testament to this unique and beloved child of the Mother.  Plans are underway to keep Zack’s website alive and well in perpetuity so that his work may continue to inspire those in the Arab world and elsewhere.

Website: sriaurobindo-inarabic.com

Translated books:

Luciano

Somewhere in the mid-nineties, Luciano joined the team in Annapurna and has worked with them ever since, taking care of the farm’s daily deliveries of milk and cheese, transporting Tomas’s daughter Usha to and from school in Auroville, and passionately studying Tamil in Auroville’s library in between. When he moved in 2011 to Realization, Usha could join him in his flat for her further studies, and will deeply miss her second father.

Due to his illness, Luciano went back to Italy in 2014 where he was hospitalised and now passed away.

Andrey Grig

Our Aurovilian brother Andrey Grigorachtchenko from Russia, passed away in the family’s house in Djaima at the age of 58. After a sudden faint, he left his body, possibly caused by a genetic ailment as also his father had passed away in such a manner. His sons were with him at the time.

Called by Auroville’s ideals, Andrey came on his own to Auroville in 1985 where he was welcomed as the first Russian and lived with Sven and the late Helena in Ekta, Auromodele. He soon returned to Russia, where he and his wife Svetlana decided to go to Germany to make some money in order to both join Auroville. They arrived here in 1997, with their two young sons, Terentij and Ivan, and were accepted as Aurovilian in December ’98.

Daniel Wilms

August Timmermans narrates his experience with Daniel, “Daniel Wilms was part of my special circle of friends that comprised of John Boonen, from Newlands, and Alan Klaas, from the Matrimandir Nursery.

We could enter deep conversations and share some great laughter. Daniel was the manager of the Nursery when I asked him if I could join, in 1981. Narad had left the Nursery responsibility in Daniel’s hands, and fortunately he could use an extra hand. Daniel was dedicated to his work from the perspective of yoga and put all his heart into it. Because of that, he had an excellent connection with the Tamil workers, who all liked him. What was not to like about him?, he was spirited, open-minded, had a great sense of humor, was passionate, and a true yogi, inspite of all the personal challenges in his life. It was always a joy being and working with him.

After he had left Auroville, we miraculously discovered that we had chosen the same country to work in, Thailand, where I lived in Bangkok, and he with his wife Chika and daughter Johanna in Chiang Mai. Daniel was from Germany, and died in 2003.”

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