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June-July 2003

Seeking a new dimension

- from an interview by Alan

Manoj is part of the Auroville website and AVNet teams, Uma manages Upasana Design Studio which designs and manufactures garments.

 

Manoj and Uma

AVTODAY: What is important for you? What motivates you at present?


Uma: My primary interest is not in building Upasana into a successful business. What's most important to me is my relationship with those who come here. Sometimes somebody comes and you know that what she really wants is not new clothes but warmth of heart. And that's what I give them. In other words, what we're trying to find here is another dimension, to reach the deeper self and ask 'How are you?' rather than just sell clothes. Most people would call this very unbusinesslike, but even at the level of business I find it works beautifully.
Manoj: Auroville has many layers, from the most superficial to the deepest. Auroville works through personal networks, and people relate to one network or another depending upon which layer of Auroville they are attracted to. When you graduate through the layers and go deeper to the soul of Auroville, you will see that the ideal of Auroville is a living fact: it is not something that we have to create, it is already there, we only have to tune into it. Then you understand that if you offer yourself entirely everything is given to you, that you are provided with exactly what you need to progress. That's the Auroville which motivates me, to which I want to be connected.


AVT: What are your visions? What direction would you like your work to take?


Uma: The world of fashion is a highly corrupt world. It cashes in on creating a sense of crisis about one's looks and one's body. It makes people identify so much with how they look that they forget who they really are. I'd never felt comfortable in this world, never understood why I'd taken up fashion design, and when I came to Auroville I saw it as a chance to break with the whole thing. But then I sensed this was just an ego reaction and that actually Mother wanted me to continue. Why? I see now that what Mother wants is a purified version of the body language which is clothes, one of the strongest languages humanity is speaking today.
In other words, a new dimension in clothes design is needed, and I'm sure it can come from Auroville. At present I am trying to find my own mantra in textiles, to discover the spiritual background of Indian textiles. In terms of textiles, each State has a very different personality. Where does this come from? It's a beautiful, meditative research and I'm beginning to see that most regional designs are, at root, very pure: they have taken birth in front of the Lord in the temple.
My dream is to bring the best of what has been discovered into our work at Upasana so that a very special kind of value, another dimension, is added to the clothes that we make. Mother will do it. I get a glimpse now and then and know it will happen in the very near future, but I don't know how She will do it and whom She will use. All I can do is make myself ready to be an instrument.

Manoj:
Over the years Auroville has developed various organs of its collective body, but I can see that the brain and the central nervous system of the community, which would enable it to act as one entity, have not yet been developed. In this context, I believe that AVNet, the Intranet of Auroville, will play a very important role in developing our collective self-awareness. Modern technology which has made possible the Internet has given us a totally new evolutionary possibility. One thing I've learned is that feedback is the basic mechanism through which intelligence grows and evolves. This is why we are building more and more ways of giving feedback to each other into the next generation of AVNet. The present generation AVNet allows only very basic feedback - it's not an organizational tool - but the next generation, which we'd like to inaugurate on August 15th, will really facilitate more efficient team-working through allowing groups not only to exchange information but also to work on drafting joint documents and make decisions online. As groups increasingly link up with each other through exchanging information, so the central nervous system of the community will evolve and the community will become increasingly self-aware of its collective body and its intelligence.
It sounds like a dream but I know it will happen because I see very clearly the higher intention behind which is doing this work.

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