A week after the scheduled opening day(2nd.Jan), we finally did open Udavi School today.We start the school day by a morning assembly under an old and big Banyan tree.This was no longer possible as the tree failed to provide the necessary shade— a lot of its leaves had been blown off and two of its branches broken.So we moved to the library for the assembly.This was the first of the many changes we will have to get used to .
The Udavi campus spread over about sixteen acres of land and planted with trees over forty years ago took a severe beating from Cyclone Thane.We lost twenty old trees and a large number of big branches.One of the trees while falling had broken a water pipe resulting in loss of all the water stored in our four big tanks.Like in the rest of Auroville the buildings suffered hardly any damage.Our maintenance manager lost no time and repaired an old small chain saw that has been lying unused since some time.School was supposed to start on second of January-we sent word around that school was closed indefinitely but we needed volunteers to clear the mess.On Monday about thirty students-both boys and girls,ten teachers and our usual team of Chinammas and gardeners showed up. Rajan our manager lopped off the branches and then cut the trunks of the trees. A team with three chain- saws had been sent by Arun from LRM for the last two days and Saracon too had sent Anand with his chain saw. All of us dragged the branches away into a space used for storing firewood.The pieces of the trunks were carried by the bigger boys on wheel- barrows to be ultimately taken by LRM.There was a beautiful atmosphere-very concentrated , surprisingly quiet considering there were thirty kids around and a beautiful collaboration-each one doing what he/she wanted to do to help and no one giving instructions to another. I have felt the same concentration in Auroville-each one doing what he/she can to clear the devastation caused to what we value so much-the work of a whole generation of Aurovilians in the greening of Auroville.
We worked the whole morning and some of us into the afternoon.Within five days all the school area was cleared.But we could not open the school as there was a severe water shortage there being still no electricity supply.We had managed to get a generator (Thanks to Babu who quickly understood our predicament and came late in the evening with a genset) to pump water that would last for a few days serving the teachers who lived on campus.There was a tremendous pressure on us to share the water we had with our neighbours in the village.Arguing with them was of no avail.The ones who came came to take water were the poorest.They argued that we had the means to organise a generator from Auroville while they could not.We could have barricaded ourselves in by closing our gates but to do that for water did not seem right.We just had to share the water and ask for the generator again.Babu obliged again . On Friday evening(6th,Jan) we were given electricity supply in a part of the campus.Once again this was very fast and congratulations to all involved in making it happen .As this part also had a borewell we were able to pump up the water.We were now ready to open.
A lot of clearing work remains which we have decided to do this during our sports time in the afternoon.Once again all of us are engaged for an hour and a half and we hope to finish all the cleaning by the end of this week.To pay for the petrol for the chain saw and other repair to the building we received two unexpected donations-one from a relative of one of our teachers who visited the school during Christmas celebrations and then heard of the damage and a second one from a well wisher of the school since many years in France.Though the total is not a large amount it is more than enough for our needs.It has been reported in the local newspapers that Auroville is seeking nine crores from Government.I wonder if that is true and if we really need so much.For money is indeed in my experience a double edged sword-brings relief when it is really needed and can be a curse when it is too much or too little.
We have lost two very beautiful flowering trees-one a Ganesh tree that was full of flowers most of the year and their fragrance greeted one as far away as at the motorcycle stand where we park our bikes as we come in.I am going to miss that very much.The other tree had a canopy of violet flowers-I had not got down to identifying it but it was very pretty and it will take some time before one learns to live without it.Also it will take time before we receive whatever message there is for Auroville in this event.