Born in 1965 in Kuilapalayam, the village directly adjacent to the Aurovilian settlement of Aspiration, Selvaraj has established his grounds very firmly in Auroville, he's one with the land that he lives in. Knowing Auroville from early childhood onwards, Selva (as he's called here) has now grown into a young man strongly committed to the Township while firmly remaining true to the Village as well.
As a child I could see the sea from where Aspiration stands today and, except for some wild bushes and a few palm trees here and there, there was very little vegetation in the area. The whole place was like a desert. I remember many swirling red dust storms circling up to the skies that were quite a sight and often we kids would stand gazing with wonder at the beauty that was before us. Today the place is lush and green thanks to the thousands of trees that have been planted by the Aurovilians.
Getting used to 'foreigners'
My childhood was filled with many new happenings in the area as well as the arrival of many foreigners with their strange foods and language. It took quite a while for me to start eating salads - the thought of eating such greens that looked so much like the foods cows and goats would happily munch on!
I first started school in the village, where there was nothing much happening for me. Somehow, I stopped going there and joined the first Auroville school. It was called the New School, on what's now called the Last School campus. There was a lot of singing, painting and drawing there, and suddenly I was faced with many different types of young people from all over the world.
As a young person, I remember the time of the conflict between the Sri Aurobindo Society and Auroville. As a result, all the schools in Auroville were closed down. It was hard to know what to do at the time, and most of us kids started trying to learn a trade here or there. One day, while working at Aurelec with most of my school friends, Frederick passed by there and suggested that we should re-open the schools in Auroville, so that we could better ourselves and finish our studies.
We were of course excited and feeling as if on the start of a great new adventure! A small group of us (Rathinam, Jyothi and others) started looking for teachers and fundraising to help re-build Last School. This experience was a real eye-opener for me and allowed me to be more open and to learn from all the things that were happening around me. It also enabled me to become more engaged with Auroville's 'mainstream', and to become more strongly connected to Auroville's future and well-being.
Presently I find myself strongly committed to Auroville's goals of unending education. Over the years I have worked with many schools in the Auroville area. These last ten years I worked specifically with After School, a secondary level education environment that supports the desires of young people who have been brought up within the Auroville context and who express an interest in further education possibilities. I oversee the co-ordination of the smooth-running of After School which means policy making along with others, ensuring that the school is understood and viewed as part of the Auroville larger community, helping to get teachers and funding for the same, and more of such activities.
I also help with organising trips and summer camps for Auroville's children, and with co-ordinating student exchange programmes for students from both within India and overseas.
Having spent all my life here now, and being a 'local', I have seen many different stages of change and growth here in our community. What I have realised is that although every human is different with different approaches to the various situations and difficulties of life, we are all somehow the same. We each may have a different training, lifestyle, background, eating habits, nationality, language etc., but we each also have different things to face and overcome within ourselves. My dream is to help bring all our differences, our seeming lack of unity together. Only then will Auroville be able to face the bigger challenges that the future most certainly holds.
Township and Village
I often get involved in disputes between the neighbouring villages and the Auroville township. Being from the village myself means that people can easily relate to me and have trust in my commitment to all that is Auroville. The relation between the future Township and Village has my particular interest: Auroville needs to embrace the village, and the village needs to become more open to Auroville.
It's a fact that the township is developing in the middle of several villages who have a population of some 30,000 people, and Mother says that each of us here in the Auroville experiment is part of a larger puzzle, each important to the success of the whole. I feel very strongly that it is crucial that Auroville grows alongside the development of the villages, and not as a separate entity. If Auroville is to be an example to the world, it has to show that it can also benefit the larger population and look after the overall development of the villages surrounding such a township.
My day begins early in the morning. I start with a couple of hours at After School, after which I go to the office of the Working Committee of which I'm currently (Jan. '01) a member. After sorting through various issues there, I grab a bite to eat either back at school or sometimes in the Solar Kitchen or at Pour Tous. Afternoons are always busy, back in the office, or following up on various issues around Auroville, after which I have just about enough time to pop into school to see how things are going before returning home to see my family. I have a 10-year-old daughter, Kavitha, who is a great source of happiness for me, and so is my partner Priya.
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