Visit to Auroville by the President of India - a report
The President of India , His Excellency Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited Auroville on Monday, November 1 st 2004 .
We were informed of the Presidential visit on the evening of 29 October 2004 . The communication was from the Rashtrapathi Bhavan saying that the President wanted to visit Auroville on the 1 st of November 2004 for a presentation about "Hydrology modelling on the saline intrusion in Vanur aquifer" and to see Matrimandir.
From the next day, the Working Committee, CSR and Matrimandir had to engage themselves in meeting and working with the Secretary, Auroville Foundation, the District Collector, senior police officials, senior officers of security agencies, RDO, local revenue officials and other government departments in making this visit come through.
The President arrived at the Town Hall at around 7.45 pm . He was accompanied by the Lt. Governor of Pondicherry , Lt. Gen (retd.) Lakera and the Chief Minister of Pondicherry , Mr. N. Rangasamy. He was received by the Chairman, Dr. Karan Singh; the Minister of Education for Tamil Nadu, Mr. C.V. Shanmugam; the Secretary, Auroville Foundation, Mr. S.R. Sharma IAS (retd.); the District Collector, Mr. K. Balachandran IAS; the MLA of Vanur, Mr. Ganapathy, and the Tahsildar of Vanur Taluk, Mr. P. Chinnamuthu.
Dr. Karan Singh then introduced to the President Dr. (Mrs.) Aster Patel, GB Member, Mrs. Meenakshi as a Tamil poetess in Auroville, Mr. P.R. Srinivasamurthy, FAO, Auroville Foundation, and Sanjeev, Manou, Renu, Selvaraj and Marco as members of the Working Committee.
The programme started with the National Anthem followed by a short invocation in Tamil by Meenakshi. Dr. Karan Singh gave the welcome address and presented gifts to the President. The power-point presentations then started with Luigi presenting "Auroville: Vision and Reality," followed by Gilles B. on "Hydrology modelling on the saline intrusion in Vanur aquifer". Tency made a presentation on renewable energy models, appropriate building technologies and waste water treatment technologies. After the presentations, the President made a very inspiring speech.
The President started his speech saying, "Friends, I have come as a pilgrim to this place, Auroville, and why I say pilgrim is because you have a mission bigger than mine; the mission you are having is larger than that of any individual. It is a vision which came from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and naturally it is a very big mission." He also said, "Most of you in Auroville, you are shaped as better human beings." When asked by a child earlier in the day, "How do you consider yourself? As a scientist? As a Muslim? As a Tamilian? " he replied to the kid that what matters most in life is to be a better human being.
Quoting a hymn from the Tamil epic Silapathigaram, written in the 2 nd century AD, ( arasial pizhaithorukku arram kootragum), he explained: "It means, if a man is in a position, whatever position he is in, if he deviates from his mission, then it says that the aram, that is the dharma, that itself will become Yama. A ram will become a destroyer, if you deviate from your mission."
He also expressed deep concern on the salt water intrusion into the ground water and said our research should concentrate on how to stop this from happening; otherwise, we will lose good water for thousands of years. Expressing concern that most of our water bodies in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry have been filled and dried up by solid wastes, he gave a thought of converting solid wastes of municipalities and water bodies of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to bricks, to be used to generate power. This was an idea put forth when he was the Chairman of the Technology Information Forecasting Council, which has been taken up by two power plants, one in Hyderabad and the other at Vizag, which are generating up to 6-7 Megawatts of power. This way, the solid wastes are eliminated and at the same time used for power generation, he said. He also said that we could promote these ideas since we are building a new township.
Later, he said, "I want to tell you something on righteousness - When there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character; when there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation; when there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world."
He expressed his happiness for having seen the presentations and that he was taking the problem of sea water intrusion with him; as we look for solutions, if anything is needed from his side, he would definitely be with us. He concluded his speech saying, "Wish you all the best, God bless you."
Mrs Aster Patel gave the vote of thanks and the event concluded with the National Anthem.
Thereafter the President came down among the audience, wished all well and left for Matrimandir by car.
The President's car and some of the cars of his entourage reached Matrimandir by its west alley. An opening had been made temporarily in the fence and lighting posts erected all along the way. Our reception committee consisted of Dr. Karan Singh and Mrs Aster Patel, GB Members, Mr. Sharma IAS (retd.), Mr. Pashi and Mr. Ramanathan and three Matrimandir executives - Michael T, Gilles G and Andy. The Matrimandir coordinators were also standing at a distance on the lower part of the large petals bordering the west entrance.
As soon as he alighted, the President was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Matrimandir Nursery. He then walked a few steps and entered Matrimandir with his entourage and our reception committee. Mrs. Aster, Mr. Pashi and Mr. Ramanathan provided him with all the explanations. We all removed our shoes at the first level to put on white socks. The protections (plywood and plastic sheets) had been removed and the white marble could be seen in all its splendour. (Many of those working at Matrimandir had never seen it uncovered.) The President spent a little more than 5 minutes in the Chamber concentrating, with almost all those who had entered Matrimandir with him. He seemed very touched by the atmosphere. While coming down, he was asked to write something in our VIP book, which he did:
He was then told that the children of Auroville wanted him to come back to give them a lecture. He seemed happy and proceeded to the central staircase to come down to the 1 st level. There, while he was putting his shoes back, he asked how many school children we had and expressed his wish to meet with the Matrimandir's architect. When he was told that Mr. Roger Anger would be back in December he said, " Please tell the children of Auroville that I will come back in December to be with them and to meet the architect." He left a few minutes later - We all felt that his visit had been a grace.
Report by the Working Committee and the Matrimandir Team
On behalf of Auroville, we would like to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all Government officials who organized the visit of the President to Auroville on November 1st, 2004 .
1) District Collector of Villupuram and other senior officials; 2) Officials of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry Police;
3) Officials of all security agencies; 4) Officials of Revenue Department of Vanur Taluk and officials of Vanur BDO;
5) Officials of Tamil Nadu Public Works Department; 6) Officials of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board;
7) Officials of Electrical Inspectorate.
Our thanks and gratitude also go to all the Aurovilians and staff of Matrimandir, CSR, Town Hall and Atithi Griha Guest House; and to all the volunteers and workers from Auroville.
The Working Committee
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