On the morning of Sunday February 1st, Sydo was found in his self-built house in the Udoumbu settlement, dead, in a puddle of blood. He was just 40 years old.
The disbelief and grief in the community was overwhelming as people tried to come to terms with this indescribable loss, the incomprehension of why it just had to be him, and the deep shock and realisation that one of us had been killed, apparently in cold blood for reasons as yet not known.
While the Auroville Council/Working Committee followed up on the more technical matters, police investigations started, the body was taken to a nearby hospital for autopsy, press releases were sent, and, sadly, the parents were informed, as well as the Dutch Embassy and Consulate and other relevant authorities.
A period of three day mourning was called for in Auroville in order to explore ways to cope with the present situation. It was asked that during these days all activities such as schools, restaurants, performances, workshops, units, and non-essential services would be closed, and most of them were. It also meant that the Matrimandir and the Visitors' Centre were closed for all visitors on these days, and house workers were given paid leave unless they were doing indispensable work.
Auroville had to come to terms with this thunderbolt shock hitting the community.
We did this, collectively, by coming together under the Banyan on Sunday afternoon, hundreds of us, where we sat, prayed and mourned, holding his being up to Mother's Grace; and the next day by a moving Community meeting during which a multi-national sharing took place of people's feelings, pain, appreciation and love for this good brother and friend that Sydo has been for us all. Messages had been emailed from various places in Europe , USA , India , South Africa and Thailand , carrying love and strength for Sydo, and us all.
Sydo (whose original Dutch name is Sytze Douwe van Loo) joined Auroville in August '96 at the age of 33. He was one of those ‘regular greenbelt guys', easy going, turban towel around his head, always on the bicycle, working hard for the environment, helping young Tamilians to grow into the environmental work and awareness, having an easy way with Auroville's kids, being an appreciated presence in green groups, and from time to time happily frolicking along with the Academic Genius Brothers. At the same time he searched, groped for the truth in life, and dearly loved Mother, and dearly loved Auroville.
After the Udumbu incident last year, when he and his neighbour Steve were severely attacked by gang members from a nearby village intending to rob Steve's house, Sydo has been pushing for an Auroville security system, drafting many proposals, participating in many meetings, urging to have this materialize soon. We owe it to him now to make this come true.
While, during the week, meetings among residents and with village elders were going on, exploring what lesson Auroville has to learn from what had happened, and debriefing sessions were organised and young and old were drafting letters and drawings for his family, Sydo's embalmed body came back from the hospital and was laid in state in the Auroville Health Centre. People flocked in for a last farewell, but it wasn't Sydo anymore. Sydo was already on the way..
On Wednesday afternoon, in the Auroville settlement of Adventure, the body was cremated, covered with flowers and incense, surrounded by hundreds of us. There was a good wind, the fire did its work. OM was in the air.
Sydo was free.
Jay MA -