Kumar works in his motorbike repair shop outside New Creation with his wife Parvathi.
Kumar and Parvathi
“I come from a large, poor family in Pondicherry , my father was a driver. As a boy I loved vehicles and my dream of having my own workshop has now come true. Nowadays I am the ‘pillar of the house' for my family; they depend on me. They cared for me when I was young and helpless, and so now I care for them.
“André and Babu used to bring their motorbikes to Pondicherry for me to repair, and one day André asked if I would like to come and set up a work shop in New Creation. And my life changed completely. I have been here in this workshop for 15 years now and I am a very happy man.
“I have recently walled in and enlarged my workshop and now employ four people. The place is peaceful and beautiful with the tamarind trees and my workshop under the banyan trees. I like to see the children and teachers on their way to school and they always wave at me.
“I train young men in vehicle maintenance and then see them set up their own business; I find that very satisfying. It is like seeing little birds spread their wings and fly. If they are smart, it takes two years. My main calls are for puncture repairs, engine breakdowns and, of course, lack of petrol. I often get calls from people who are stuck in the forest with no petrol so I ride out with a bottle and rescue them. I guess I repair about fifteen bikes a day; in the guest season, even more.
“The Western tourists are very friendly. But even though they are here on holiday, they seem always in a hurry and do not understand the Indian ways. They want their repairs done “now” and are always running out of petrol. Many of them, however, feel they are in their ‘second mother's house' when they are here in Auroville as they feel the special atmosphere. They tell me they are sad when they have to leave. More are coming every year. That is good for them, and also for my business.
“Although I am not an Aurovilian, I have learnt many things through working in Auroville. Good habits like punctuality, honesty, cleanliness and love of nature. I am not an Aurovilian – nobody has asked me to be, but if they asked, I would like to join.
“A few years ago, I met a Frenchman, called Gerard, who taught me yoga asanas so now when people give me their tension I go away and do some yoga and get shanti. I also go to New Creation classes to learn more asanas. I love doing yoga and learning to improve my body. I work hard and try to take care of my health so I can do good service. I eat only vegetarian food and every day have at least two tender coconuts – its water is very healthy – and use natural herbs and medicines.
“ I go to the Samadhi and also to the Ganesh temple. And I like goddess Kali as she is so powerful.
“Mother has given us this good earth and we must care for it. We must also care for ourselves better. There are so many accidents on the road now, mainly due to fast driving. Our boys think ‘speedy life is more fun', but really, a quiet and long life is much better! I can repair their bikes, but only God can repair their bodies.
“My recent joy is that my wife Parvathi has been working with me for the last six months.” Parvathi joins in. “I used to see Kumar coming home every night so tired that one day I asked him if I could come and help him. I have been working here ever since and I have never been so happy in my life. We had an arranged marriage eleven years ago and have a 10 year old daughter and an 8 year old son. When we go home at night we share the cooking. That is unusual as Tamil men normally are not found in the kitchen. In the morning I drop our children off at the Lycee Française in Pondicherry . Kumar's grandfather was a French national so we want them to speak French. I drive to the workshop, and then go back and pick them up in the afternoon. Our son loves being here and is learning to do little repairs.
“When I started here I did not know any English but now I speak with people all the time and am learning quickly.”
“Parvathi is still shy,” says Kumar “But she is getting more confident every day. Before she could not even drive a scooter and now she drives to Pondicherry to get spares for me every day. Her friends see how her life has changed and they are envious. They are beginning to tell their husbands they want to go out and work too. I think she must be the first woman working in a bike shop in Tamil Nadu – it is a great honour. In Pondicherry girls work at the garage, but only serving petrol, they do not really have any responsibility.”
Kumar is a happy man doing his daily work as a service in the company of his bright and cheerful wife.