Born in Tunesia, Frenchman André Hababou joined Auroville at its very beginning in 1968. He tells here about his experience, his work and insights.
Coming to Auroville
When I was 26 years old, I sent a letter to Mother explaining why I wanted to come to Auroville, and about my educational background. I had studied architecture and 'Beaux Arts' in France. And, of course, I remember specially the first time I met Mother, it was something very powerful, indescribable, and very touching. It was something strong and marvelous. I was asked to join the team of Roger Anger (Auroville's chief town planner) to do architectural work for him. I learned a lot with him; he had a maturity that I did not have and long experience as architect.
The search for beauty
In my field of work there is a constant concern to find beauty, beauty in the forms as well as in the integration of architecture with other elements. I was touched by what Mother said about beauty, that beauty is an expression of the Divine in the physical world. This has impressed me very much and has given me a constant aspiration to find beauty and harmony and be able to express it in my work. Everything I do in Auroville is always related to that.
Architecture in Auroville can be very fulfilling because of the freedom to express one's own creativity. But of course, many Aurovilians have created their own dream, and sometimes without consulting an architect, so the results are not always satisfying. My personal experience is very diverse: individual houses in Auromodèle, Auromode complex (where I have my architectural office and do design work for Auromode), and the collective housing project of Surrender..
At present I'm working on several projects, one of them being the Tibetan Pavilion, which is perhaps the most interesting challenge for me. In order to understand and grasp the atmosphere of the Tibetan culture, I have studied a lot before doing the technical drawings for the building.
No money-making machine
When my partner Prema had the experience of the falling star I was there; I remember that moment perfectly. We were in Auromodèle and she showed me the direction of the star, going towards the north-west, the Industrial Zone. Three days later, the 14th of July, we were shifting the tailoring workshop to Revelation. This workshop was, first of all, a way to earn one's living. At that time we were poor, didn't have our basic needs together, and our situation was generally quite unbearable for us. But when we started to create the workshop, it was for me of utmost importance to manifest something harmonious, to express beauty. In Auroville, the commercial units are seen sometimes as machines to make and give money, but this was not at all what we wanted, this wasn't the aim at all! Afterwards, when the money started to come in abundantly (thanks to Prema, who is a good business woman), there was no doubt about it that it was for Auroville, and we were happy to give and share. But we always had in mind not to become a money-making machine.
Work as an indispensable means to the inner discovery
In Sri Aurobindo's Yoga one cannot remain exclusively on an ethereal plane. I, for one, have a tendency to remain a little bit there, to float a bit.. It is something in my nature, in my way of being, but I have realised that the Integral Yoga has a lot to do with work on the physical plane. The material world is a base, and this base is what gives us a measure of where we are in regard to our inner development, it shows how we evolve, it is a proof of how we progress, a point of reference.
The future of the Industrial Zone
Recently, Auromode has had some difficulties due to a certain project, and we are going through a tough time. Generally speaking, the Industrial Zone in which Auromode is located is confronted with several difficulties: there is some opposition from the community to further develop this area, mainly because people do not want to see too many industries established here. A recent survey done by our town planners indicates that there is almost no more land available for construction of production units since the Aurovilians who are settled there since long, do not feel to give up the land they have been taking care of for Auroville and the living quarters they have established there for themselves. However, we shouldn't forget that this zone is important for the self-sufficiency of the city. The Industrial Zone is one of the four zones seen by Mother, and I am confident it will become a reality, in spite of all these problems.
Not an ascetic community but a City of the Future
What also impressed me in the Integral Yoga, apart of the aspect of beauty, was the discovery that this yoga doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with traditional 'spirituality': that changed my entire vision. And because of my friendship with Roger Anger, he shared with me all the different projects that Mother told him about during his frequent visits with her. For example, Mother foresaw for the city a recreation port, and a stadium for a future Olympic Games...! For me it was very surprising and unexpected to hear about these sort of things in the domain of spirituality. The fact that the spiritual path doesn't have anything to do with asceticism drastically changed my perception.
Auroville far from being self-sufficient
I think that this is due to many factors. One aspect is perhaps that we don't work and give enough, and another has to do with persistent prejudices we still have about money. We Aurovilians should reflect a lot about this because there is still a strong formation, inherited from the old kind of spirituality, where money is considered dirty and evil. Even if we think we understand Sri Aurobindo and Mother, we may not realise that there is a subconscious pattern ingrained in us, coming from the old spirituality and also from communism, the idea of equal distribution for everybody. Because of this there is a tendency for people to reject money, to be afraid to deal with it. There also seems to be a lack of self-giving and faith in Auroville sometimes. As the township is growing, it is normal that we face economic difficulties from time to time. We cannot, as a community, put the entire responsibility in the hands of three or four production units.
See also: Architects - Andre
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