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     Interview with the Secretary in November issue of AVToday

Departure of Mr. Bala Baskar

from l. to r. on top: Mr Kireet Joshi handing flowers to Mr Bala Baskar (Sept 29); October 20th: Mrs Girija Bala Baskar saying goodbye; two AV schoolgirls dancing with some of the VC illumination at the background; AV Choir singing an Irish Blessing song. Bottom from l. to r.: Judith delivering her Vote of Thanks; the We Will Miss You card signed by all; flowers and lights..

On the evening of October 20th, 2001, the community of Auroville said goodbye to its Administrator of these last five years, Mr. N. Bala Baskar, I.A.S., who had joined Auroville in October 1996 in the function of Secretary of the Auroville Foundation.

While a more formal 'felicitation' function had taken place in Auroville's Sri Aurobindo Centre for Human Unity (SAWCHU) on September 29th, where the Chairman of the Auroville Foundation, Mr. Kireet Joshi, had taken leave of the Secretary, - on Saturday October 20th the Aurovilians themselves did so as well by means of a 100% home-made farewell programme in its Visitors Centre which had been decorated with flowers and lights for the special occasion. The evening had very much a family-feel, with at its centre Mr. and Mrs. Balabaskar and their son Suchin.

Mr and Mrs Balabaskar and their son Suchin (insert) enjoying the skit of the three Akademik Genius Brothers: "you have been such a nice administrator, we hope you come back sooner or later" etc etc..

After the programme, enjoying a frugal farewell meal in the open space behind the Visitors Centre..

A Vote of Thanks that says it all

Long-time Aurovilian Judith Robinson (U.K.), who, as then Working Committee member, had welcomed Mr. Bala Baskar in '96, spoke at the end of the colourful evening, thanking the family on behalf of Auroville. As her 'vote of thanks' gives a clear and comprehensive overview of the enormous changes that were brought about during the Secretary's presence in Auroville, we share it with you here in its entirety:

Mr. Bala Baskar, Mrs Bala Baskar, Suchin,

It is just 5 years ago since I was honoured to stand more or less in this same place and make the speech of welcome to you when you first arrived. I take it as a great honour to be asked this evening to make the speech of thanks and farewell on the occasion of your leaving us, though I suspect it is meant to be more of a punishment than an honour, an obligation to eat my former words in public.

It hardly seems possible that it is 5 years since you arrived for as the saying goes, "time flies when you are having a good time." There is no doubt that we would all feel very happy if by some magic another 5 years, at least, could be added. And why should you go at all? To us you all seem so much members of our family and we are very sad to see you leave.

At the same time it feels like a long time ago. It seems strange today to remember that Auroville at the time of your arrival was reeling from the impact of the expulsion and threatened expulsion of some of its residents and that on that occasion I spoke out strongly about our apprehensions of the roles of the Auroville Foundation and the Secretary to the Foundation in the life of Auroville and Aurovilians. But if Auroville was in a state of unrest and apprehension, you and your family came bearing the much greater grief of the loss of your son. These five years, I believe, has brought healing to us all.

On that occasion, you said you hoped that when you left people would think as well of you as they were saying then. Mr Bala Baskar, we think so much much more highly about you now.

Mr Bala Baskar, you have managed to give a very humane and gentle face to the bureaucratic tasks that you came to perform. It is a testimony to the personal qualities that you have brought to the role of Secretary that the preoccupations and fears of those days have so much receded that today the Auroville Foundation is a widely respected part of our collective life and the Secretary is seen as a trusted friend and helpmate.

We have seen on so many occasions that, while discharging your administrative duties, you have consistently sustained the spirit of the Auroville Foundation Act, which lays down that the residents of Auroville must be given the freedom to organise and develop Auroville. Rather than taking the simple expedient of administrative orders in some difficult situations, you have patiently sought to find consensus solutions so that we could learn the difficult art of self-regulation. I would further say that on many occasions it is you have who have maintained the spirit of Auroville. While we have, each in our corner, been battling for the Truth, it is you who have reminded us of our ideal of human unity and offered us the higher solution to which we could all agree.

We have so much appreciated your simplicity as well as your deep sense of humour. Indeed it must have been only your innate capacity to see the humorous side of things that helped you not to take offence on occasions where other people might have. In fact the only occasion I can remember you taking offence was when a new and rather over-diligent Working Committee tried to regulate the access of the other residents to you. For one of your great gifts to us has been accessibility. Anyone wanting to see you only had to knock on the door and pop their head round to be greeted with a welcoming "come in, come in..". And how many of us and how often have we popped into your office as it has become more and more the first reaction when faced by any kind of administrative problem to say, "Go and ask Mr Bala Baskar."

We are also very grateful for your tireless efforts to present the positive face of Auroville to the officials you have had to deal with at all levels of Government, local and central. We are quite aware that you have had at times to face awkward questions about various aspects of Auroville's life and we know that you did your very best to protect Auroville in all circumstances.

At the same time you have helped us to conform to many of the legal requirements that somehow we had managed to avoid when Auroville was smaller and more informal. By your willingness to explain things clearly to us and by your mediation with the relevant authorities to be gentle with us, you have helped us to swallow some rather large bureaucratic pills relatively painlessly.

I am personally also filled with genuine admiration that as a senior officer in the Indian Administrative Service, you are able to carry and convey the inner spirit behind the work. It is this capacity in yourself and some other officials of the Indian Government that is one of the characteristics that makes India such a very special country, where despite all the problems of the modern world, Her dharma as the spiritual leader of the world still shines through.

Mr Bala Baskar, your presence in Auroville over the last 5 years has been a blessing and a grace and we are very deeply grateful. Your tenure here will always stand out in Auroville's history as one of the happier times. We wish you and your family all the very best for the future, you in Chandigarh, Mrs Bala Baskar keeping the home fires burning in Chennai, and Suchin in his studies and future career. You will be sadly missed. We all want you to consider Auroville as a home away from home and please come and see us whenever you can. The welcome mat is always out for you.

Thank you, Mr Bala Baskar, thank you.

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