Departure of Mr. Bala Baskar
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.
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,
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.