It was a warm and sunny day when I took off for the Auroville 'Sailam' settlement in the centre of town. Located in the Residential Zone, I had a bit of difficulty locating it at first, but then there it was: emerging out of the cashew trees and a thin long mud road led me to its gate. I arrived just in time for my interview with Anton, the person behind the idea of 'Sailam' and the one who made it happen.
No clue about Auroville
I was born in 1955 to working class parents in Holland who didn't get a great deal of educational opportunities. I got registered in a catholic school, and it was during my highschool days at the age of 16 that I first heard of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. At the time, I suddenly had the inclination to learn more about them, even though I had no clue about Auroville or India. Soon I found myself ordering books of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother from India and started to read them. It was only a couple of years later, in 1978, that I arrived in Pondicherry, and I still had no idea whatsoever that there existed an Auroville somewhere..! And then came the day that I went on a cycle trip to Auroville, for the very first time.
I then went back to Holland to finish m,y teacher training and earn money because I had nothing to start with. I visited Auroville every four years and in 1991 I quit my job as programmer at Ericsson and came to Auroville to stay for good. The first community I stayed in was 'Discipline' in the Greenbelt and after that I lived three years in 'Aspiration'. During my first 5 years here I worked in Last School because everyone said that education was in a crisis at the time. I spent seven years doing sports with the schoolkids with Dayashakti, and the past five years I have been running the computer centre at Transition School.
Sailam community is very important to me. Before Sailam came up the place was covered with cashew trees. I knew the area was to be part of the Residential Zone and had the idea of building a housing community for people who don't have a great deal of money, for example people from eastern Europe or some parts of India. The Tamil word "Saiyalam" means "we can do it" and I wanted to make it affordable to everyone who wanted to stay here. I had been inspired to do this by my stay in the Aspiration settlement. It was in 1994 that the design of Sailam took shape, with advice from some Aurovilian architects like Helmut and Satprem, and with the help of Guna, a Tamil Aurovilian friend. The construction finally began, and most of my money went into this building..
Sailam for me came up as an experiment in housing. Coming to Auroville has generally been a stepping up of experiences for me. Also my teaching job in Last School and now Transition School has left me with experiences I would never have gotten this fast and this concentrated anywhere else. Besides this I teach geography in CFL (Auroville's Centre for Further Learning) for a few hours and assist Kuilapalayam School Trust where my work involves fundraising, locating teachers etc.
A cause close to heart
The Kuilapalayam School Trust is a cause close to my heart. What I like best about the school is that the entire syllabus is taught in Tamil and English is taught as a separate subject. I find the children very bright and enthusiast. The score is pretty high: most of them score a 70+ % mark which is excellent. Sadly enough, we sometimes have a hard time looking for funds to keep the school going.
Treat everyone as you would like them to treat you
At the end I would like to share a personal motto here: treat everyone, always and everywhere and definitely also here in Auroville and our bioregion, as you would like them to treat you.
I left Sailam with fond memories of my meeting with Anton and a hope that everyone will realise their dreams some day. And never give up in the process.
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