Italian couple Liliana and Marco say that they always felt like tourists in Italy, “as if we didn't really belong there. But here in Auroville, we've always felt at home.”
“I immediately fell in love with Auroville and have always felt good here,” begins Liliana. “If I hadn't, I am the sort of person who would either do something about it, or leave. Many people here complain about things, but there are also so many people quietly working away at what they believe. Without an inner conviction that what we are doing is very worthwhile, we might as well be anywhere in the world,” she continues. “It is only I who can decide what is best for me at this present time. No committee or organization can or should do this for me.”
Marco cuts in, observing that Liliana's Italian blood is warming up but says he agrees with her. “I too strongly feel we don't have to depend on our elected people to guide us. We need good administrators who can do their job efficiently and therefore help me to do my job more efficiently. I feel many people talk too much about the latest crisis which they imagine we are in, and this produces a lot of negativity. The only thing we should do is try to have a clear mind about what needs to be done, create the right atmosphere and the necessary skills, and then do it with a full commitment and sense of purpose.”
Now it's Liliana turn to interrupt. “When we came 12 years ago there was hardly anything here, and look at Auroville now. It has blossomed under our eyes. It's a miracle that so few people have managed to produce so much in such unfavourable conditions. When we live here all the time it is easy to forget our amazing achievements. We should be proud of this and let it inspire us and others and keep working with highest ideals.
“I personally keep out of Auroville politics but I do attend General Meetings. But Marco has at different times been involved with the Council, the Working Committee and other groups – whenever he feels it is necessary, or feels he has something useful to offer. We both work hard and are careful to utilize our spare time to the best possible advantage.
“I have established the unit Miniature which produces clothing and bags and I work there six days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I started with two employees and now we've sixteen. And although it is hard work and a lot of responsibility, I love doing it. I feel some units do not do well because the executives who run it do not spend enough time there. I feel you have to be there all the time to create new products, and to support your workers who will then give their best.”
Marco speaks of his extremely full life. “I am also very busy. I have built a Tai-Chi hall on the terrace of our home where I give three hour lessons five days a week. Two years ago a group of us created the Cinema Paradiso in the multi-media complex which I feel is a great success. In the mornings we offer it free for the schools to use and the rest of the time for conferences, presentations and so on. And of course in the evenings there is a regular programme of films.”
Marco also volunteers as a contact person for newcomers. “I feel very strongly that this programme should be encouraged as Auroville can be a large and confusing place for new people, especially if they are alone or do not speak good English. From time to time, I call them over the phone offering help or advice, often just pointing them in the right direction. I also help them in their contact with the entry group.”
Asked about the future, they both speak simultaneously.
“We are both now in our early sixties and hope to continue what we are doing for many more years. Where else in the world can older people work as they want to, without compulsory retirement or redundancy? We don't want to travel any more; we feel we have seen everything and are now 100% in our right place.
“ India is full of beautiful places to visit, so why go all that way to Europe ? We used to visit Italy for years to see parents, children and grand children, but now we feel they should come here if they want to see us.
“It is strange, but we feel we've been here so long that we have lost contact with Europe . Last time we were in Italy , we felt as if we didn't know what people were talking about; so much seemed to revolve around TV and the media, and people's opinions come from those. It all felt a little unreal compared with the vitality here in Auroville.
“One thing we started in Auroville a few years ago is the ‘Grandparent's scheme', something that has given us a lot of pleasure and satisfaction. Young children here do not usually have grandparents and so we put a notice in the News and Notes offering to be surrogate grandparents. This we've done with a few families and some very nice bonds have been created.
“Here in Auroville, we have no fear of old age or death. We live our lives in the present and take the future as it comes.”