“I want to create an awareness of the precarious world situation,” says Suresh of Auroville Video Library.
“I have inherited the beamer, the sophisticated film projector that used to belong to Wim,” says Suresh. “Wim, who passed away last December, used it to show inspirational films in Auroville. I would like to do as he did – to show films such as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Before, I was not really aware of the potential environmental problems but things are changing very fast and Indians must be made aware of the problems. One of these days, I would like to dub it into Tamil and show it in schools and on local TV.”
Suresh is a young man of thirty who has had a hard life and been through lots of emotional turmoil, but now he feels very clear about his future. “I have always been fascinated with the movie business, how movies are made and especially how they get those incredible special effects. I used to watch everything when I was younger but now I am more critical. If you come to the Video Library where I work, I bet I can tell you about every film, even if I haven't seen it!” Suresh also shows films at the Visitor's Centre on Friday and Saturday evenings, something he says he enjoys doing.
“Life was not always this organized. I grew up without parents and was taken care of by my loving grandfather who was very poor. When he could not manage any more he put me in Udavi Children's Home. Then, luckily, a dance teacher in Pondicherry adopted me, and in 1990 she took me to Germany for a three months holiday. I will never forget Germany ! Everything seemed square and geometrical to me, even the people. The roads were huge and almost empty; everything was perfectly planned and you always had to be on time!
“Later I was put in New Creation Boarding but by this time I was not behaving well so I had to leave and went to live alone in Kuyilapalayam. A few hard and unhappy teenage years followed. I went to work in Pondicherry 's industrial zone, living in a little room with ten other men who worked in tyre and bottling factories. I remember the walk of six kilometres every morning to get the bus to town and coming back at 7.30 at night. If the bus was late, the canteen would be closed and I had to go to bed hungry. But I was young and foolish, and spent whatever money I earned on clothes and movies. Finally the landlord asked me to leave. After a couple of years, this sort of life became exhausting and I came back to Auroville. I stayed in Samriddhi with Diego for a while then Otto gave me a job in the Financial Service. Then I applied to be a Newcomer.
“I got a chance to go to the Delhi Ashram to do a teacher training course. I had never travelled further than Pondicherry before and the thought of being alone for two days and a night on a train scared me. I had been told of how you could be robbed while you slept, and even worse, how men would drug you, drag you off the train and take your kidneys out to sell them. On reaching Delhi , I panicked when I realized everyone was speaking Hindi; I didn't know how to even hire a rickshaw to take me to the Ashram which was a long way away. By some grace, a kind rickshaw driver took care of me and drove me directly there; I will never forget him.
“At the interview for the teacher's selection, I looked around the room and saw all these smart, well-spoken people with degrees; and here was I, a village boy from Auroville. I decided the only thing I could do was just be myself, so I started cracking jokes and making them laugh. I was terribly nervous. I could feel my future was in the balance and when the committee told me I had been accepted saying, ‘We are very happy with you, you have such a good energy', I nearly burst into tears. They informed me that I would be in a ‘free progress school and the kids were very wild and made the teachers pull their hair out'. They obviously had not heard about Auroville schools!
“In the Ashram I had a room to myself and for the first time in my life I could close a door on the world. The students came from all over India and I was shy, but quickly decided I had to jump into this completely new way of living. The strict routine clashed with my personality as I had never experienced such Auroville a highly-organized life, especially after the freedom of Auroville and village life. I was warned several times about my behaviour and it took me a few months to adapt to Ashram life. But once I settled in, I was very happy and the three years passed like three months. The highlight of that experience for me was directing a performance of Ali Baba, and getting recognition from the Ashram for what I felt was a smash-hit.
“Then I came back to Auroville and became an Aurovilian. I worked as a teacher in Transition School for five years. Then I looked at my life, and saw that I had always been alone without the security of a family. So I decided it was time to get married. A friend arranged my marriage with a beautiful girl, Kaveri, who was a dancer and I am still very much in love with her. We eventually got a flat in Courage. We moved in on a Thursday, the next day our son was born. He is now four years old. Later we had our second child, a boy who is now eleven months old. Now we're a proper family; they are everything I have ever dreamed of.
“A friend asked me if I would like to join him in starting a school in Goa and my wife and I agreed as we wanted to experience living in another part of India and doing something totally different. We enjoyed Goa but ran up debts, so when we came back I had to get a teaching job in Cuddalore to pay it all off.
“I am now working with Claude at the Video Library, teaching at Nandanam Kindergarten, and showing weekend films at the Visitors Centre. My wife is still a newcomer and doesn't get a maintenance, and we find it a struggle to manage. Last year things came to a head. I was getting so tired with work that one evening I just burst into tears. My wife and I sat down and had a good talk. Now we have reorganized our lives so we have more time for our family. We have discovered that it is very important in Auroville to learn to manage your time well; many people we know become exhausted through the pressure of work and the family demands.
“Now I am thirty and I have never felt better. I have experienced hard manual labour, lived with ten men in a room, experienced life in the Delhi Ashram, and gone bankrupt in Goa . I feel I can now step outside Auroville with confidence, if necessary, and that is a good feeling. Whenever I've needed help in my life it has somehow always come, and everything turns out for the best.
“Now I feel like doing something else; through the inspiration I still carry from Wim, and from my love of film, I want to extend myself and be somehow of use to society. I am sure it will happen one day.”