Sunday, on the 29th February, it was Open House at Sangamam. To visit, you had to cross the newly laid bridge next to Utility. You were welcomed by the residents, who proudly showed you their house. Who knew that our Messenger, Krishnamurthy, had been living there with his family for two years already?
Sangamam, Tamil for ‘confluence' or people and energies mingling together, at present houses some 24 people -- 12 children and 12 adults. They are long-term, trusted workers of Auroville with their children, and the odd bachelor.
The Sangamam project has a long history. The original idea for a ‘labour colony' as part of Auroville came from the Mother. Sangamam was begun some three years ago, initially as a project of Ilaignarkal School and Auroville's Future, now under Sangamam Trust.
The first priority was proper planning, as Joseba, one of the four Sangamam trustees, explained. The initial design was done by Anupama. With a grant of 24 lakhs from Navarra, Joseba's home town in Spain, a bridge was built across the canyon, a bore well dug, and electricity and phone lines laid. A fully indigenous water treatment plant (a research and development project carried out by Neyvelli Lignite with funding from the Central Pollution Control Board), was carefully designed and placed in the most suitable spot. Then the houses were built, and Auroville workers who have been working in Auroville for at least ten years, could apply.
It is the people of the Sangamam Trust (Joseba, Meenakshi, Sanjeev and Ponnuswamy) who decide about each application. The first courageous family moved in, overcoming fears of living in a fairly isolated spot near the canyon. What about thieves, snakes, and what not? There are no shops nearby, and they can't buy goods at Pour Tous, not being Aurovilians. But they say they accept this inconvenience, for they are free from other restrictions and problems that are rife in the villages.
While Auroville is an international community, Sangamam happens to have become an inter-village and inter-caste community. At least eight different villages around Auroville are represented here.
Two Auroville architects, Anupama and Satprem, have so far taken up the challenge to come up with cost-effective housing for Sangamam, the brief being that a unit should cost no more than two lakhs to build. In fact, the cost of building each family unit was between 1.5 and two lakhs. The houses have a bathroom, toilet, kitchen and separate bedroom. The workers contribute Rs. 200 per household for electricity, water and other infrastructure. Moreover, there is a spacious community hall for special occasions, evening classes and simply to come together.
Six more units are under construction, with vaulted “flower pot roofs.” Anupama's touch is evident here. These were paid for by the Housing Service, and the idea is that they will serve as temporary homes for Aurovilians and Newcomers before then being turned over to workers. Raji is the first, and so far only, Aurovilian to join with her husband. Interested, anyone?
A total of sixty houses are to be built here. But for now the money pot is empty (with even a little dent in it).
Will Sangamam become a model village? At present it is cleaner, quieter, without alcoholism, wife-beating, or cable TV. There are going to be kitchen gardens and even a “green belt”. Like elsewhere in Auroville, the houses will not be the personal property of the inhabitants. It sounds good. Who knows, perhaps Sangamam will become an example for Auroville to emulate.