Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nature’s bowl

Life continues...

After the devastating Thane cyclone,  our workshop reopened on Monday, January 2. 
We continue to work on new products. The latest is the fruit of the Calabash tree.

Botanical name: Crescentia spp. Bignoniaceae
The genus Crescentia is distributed with 5 species in the tropics of Middle America.  Best known is Crescentia cujete (English: Calabash Tree) with its undivided, rounded leaves broadened at the tip.  It is cultivated a lot.
Very common is also Crescentia alata with three-lobed finger form leaf and winged leaf stalk.  Both species reach 8-10 m in height, having a trunk with flaking bark.  On the branches and young stems appear the inwardly carved, broad tubular, brownish – red flowers (cauliflory) which bloom for just one night and are pollinated by bats.
From the ovary which has two parts a spherical to ellipsoidal fruit capsule develops, often nearly head-sized.  The fruit contains a pulpy tissue in which numerous flattened eatable seeds are embedded.
The dried fruit capsules are used in various ways, such as jazz rattles, colourfully painted and carved as ornaments or cut in half as drinking bowls.  For the American Indians the fruits had a special meaning.
The plant is named after the Bolognese Petrus de Crescentia (1230-1320)
At Shradhanjali we scrape, scrub and clean the Crescentia alata fruit for a multipurpose natural bowl.


The cyclone brought tragedy but also grace and unity

Hundreds of  'folded' electricity posts
The cyclone brought tragedy but also grace and unity
January 6, 2012
Auroville saw widespread destruction due to Cyclone Thane. Fortunately no lives were lost.
'To live 'normally' again will take weeks, but fortunately our area, which includes 7 villages, witnesses no death, not even a serious injury.
But Auroville forests will take decades to recover. They were our pride and protection against the South Indian heat, they are no more!' 

Claude Arpi on the devastation in Auroville after Cyclone Thane.

We were getting ready for a New Year like any other.
A Korean poetry evening was scheduled at the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture, it should be interesting I thought, but our energy and thoughts were mainly focused on the preparation of the New Year Eve's Mandala of Lights attended each year by hundreds of people from Auroville and Pondicherry.
It was always the last 'spiritual' appointment of a year (with a visit to Matrimandir), often preceeding a more secular evening (or jumping into one's bed for older people, like me).
On the 29th morning, we heard that a cyclone was supposedly heading towards Pondicherry, but over the years, we had seen so many of them!
When the staff of our workshop asked if the next day was 'leave', we answered: "Who says that the cyclone will cross tonight? You know very well that most of the time, we only see their tails. Don't they always change direction a few hundred kilometres before reaching the coast and head north, to Andhra Pradesh or more often to West Bengal and Burma?"
The conclusion was peremptory: "No 'leave' for now, if the cyclone comes, then we will see and 'leave' will then be obvious."
Very early that night, it became 'obvious'.
As the velocity of the wind kept increasing, more and more violent rains coming in close waves began battering houses and nature. Our room on the first floor, probably more exposed, was soon flooded: At about 3 am, a plastic protection on the door to the terrace was ripped apart and flew away.
I must say that we were unable to realise at the time the extent of damage that the cyclone Thane (apparently, Burmese meteorologists named the cyclone Thane which means 'Eagle') was going to inflict on Pondicherry and Cuddalore district where Auroville is located.

It was not like any other cyclone we had seen in 40 years
At about 4 am, I began to receive SMSes: "How are you?", "It's pouring in our house, what about you?" It was not very comforting to know that everybody in Auroville was awake at this early hour.
At 6 am, as dawn came, the wind was stronger than ever (according to newspapers received three days later, the winds reached 150 or 180 km/hour). I must say that nobody came out to measure it.
It was not until 7 am that I decided to venture out of the house to say hello to my neighbours who have a sweet one-year old daughter. I began to understand that the 'Eagle cyclone' was not like any other cyclone that we had experienced during the last 40 years.
To cross the few metres separating our house from the neighbour's, it took me nearly ten minutes; I just could not find my way, as the ground was strewn with huge branches of our banyan as well as of neem and bauhinia trees.
Later in the morning, when the neighbours began to organise themselves (we were fortunate to have in our settlement one of the best chain-saw experts in Auroville), we began to understand the magnitude of the disaster.
To progress less than 200 metres, to reach the gate of our Dana community, it took more than four hours despite the determined team of 'Danaistes' working hard to open up the road.
Only later we learned that a similar scenario had repeated itself everywhere in Auroville and the surrounding villages.
A grace: Mobile phones (at least BSNL) continued to work. Quickly, we took stock of the extent of the devastation, but the fact that there was no announced injury or death (relayed through our mass bulletin on the smart phones), led us to expect a relatively happy end. This put a little balm on our hearts.

Click to continue to read...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Watch the things you gave your life to broken...

And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools
We are posting below an article published yesterday in The Hindu.
Probably to comfort us, a friend send us the famous poem of Kipling, 'If'. 
And we Aurovilians are trying our best to "fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run..."

'If' by Rudyard Kipling
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
‘Thane' robbed Auroville of lush look
The Hindu
January 5, 2012
Kavita Kishore
Estimates suggest that over half the trees in Auroville, which was known for its lush green cover, have been destroyed by the cyclone Thane. A visit to the township reveals that large numbers of trees were uprooted and many patches of the area have been cleared. Work is in full swing to clear the uprooted trees.
Auroville has a man-made forest, which is over two decades old. The trees had been planted by Aurovilleans on an area that was earlier barren and many of the trees that have been uprooted were over 30 years old, according to one of the Aurovilleans, Tapas.
A majority of “work trees,” Acacia auriculoformis , that are drought resistant, were among the major casualties, said another Aurovillean.
Many Aurovilleans said that as a result of the trees collapsing, most of the roads in the township were blocked and many people were unable to move out of their houses. There are still around 200 houses that are inaccessible.
The local school was damaged as was a children's playground, with trees and the wind wreaking havoc in the area. However, Matri Mandir, the focal point of Auroville, the Bharat Nivas and the Visitor's Centre were unharmed despite severe damage to the surrounding gardens. There were no casualties from the cyclone.
Electric lines have suffered damage with several broken posts and snapped cables lying on the side of the road. The TNEB estimates that it would take another 10 to 15 days before electricity is restored in the area.
According to Aurovillean Alok, around 150 electric lines were uprooted by the cyclone and many windmills damaged. The windmills were being used by a few communities to pump water, he said.
One of the biggest problems they face at present is the lack of water supply.
To help ease the situation, each community receives a visit from the “water service,” which is a jeep with a generator and a pump, that goes around to different areas and pumps water into the tanks. The service, however, is only available in areas that have road access, Aurovilleans said.
A cyclone help-desk has been set up. It coordinates various cyclone-related activities, including the clearing of roads, helping people who are still trapped in their homes.
A massive cleanup has started and Auroville has acquired around 20 chainsaws and five generators to resume their essential services. Volunteers chip in with the clearing of trees, along with hired help. Work has started on the buildings that suffered damage. The communities collect at Solar Kitchen for their meals, and individuals have not yet started cooking.
A few houses that have solar power where panels were not damaged continue to have electricity, and people gather there to charge their mobile phones and other devices.
Although the power supply would take another 10 to 15 days to resume, the Aurovilleans are optimistic that their community would be up and running by then, with all roads being cleared in the next two or three days.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year and Cyclone

The devastated landscape everywhere in Auroville
On the night of December 29th, the cyclone Thane crossed the coast near Pondicherry bringing devastation to Auroville and the surrounding villages.

Electric Wires lying on the ground
Snapped electric posts

The devastation
The beautiful Auroville forest has been flattened by the cyclone; all roads were blocked by massive tree-fall, most Aurovilians were 'prisoners' in their own communities/homes.
It has taken all of 3 days of constant hard work by several tree-cutting/clearing teams to somewhat clear our main routes, but on Monday January 2, work resumed in Shradhanjali (and most other commercial units).
Electrical supply will not be restored for at least 2-3 weeks (electrical poles have snapped like matchsticks or folded over), and water is a big problem.
It is going to take us a long time to limp back to normal (whatever that means).
The forest may take 10 or 15 years to recover from the brutal shock.
We are posting some photos of the massive destruction as well as of our 'trek' to the workshop on 31st December morning.
More than ever we need courage and determination to face the Future!
Wishing you again a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Opening the first roads
Abha trying to find the road
Another person struggling to reach her place of work
The Shradhanjali workshop is in view
The next day
Volunteers at work
Clearing the main road