Ashram was formed in 1926 without any announcement without any proclamation.
But it emerged slowly from some unknown depth according to necessity.
These necessities formed some centers of activities oriented around some
ideal and aim of service, the service to the Divine Mother called the
Mother’s work and the service to the community. As the community was growing
the number of service centers increased and also each centre expanded.
Thus the first service centre was the Dining Room and
Kitchen. It appeared or emerged in the year 1923 when the Mother took
the house called Library house and occupied with some members. Then in
1928 two more service centers emerged by the next impulsion of necessity.
One is a workshop and another is “Electric and Water Service". By this
time, in 1928 the adjoining building near Library House were taken on
rent. All these buildings together formed one square unit a square of
perfect manifestation in seed form. In the same unit these two new service
centers took shape as embryos – under the direct administration of the
Mother and under the supervision of Pavitrada. Very soon, the supervision
of Electricity and Water service was given to a new comer named ‘Rene’,
the younger brother of Dara. The location of this service centre was the
room now called the Mother’s store at the south – east corner where Dara
had stayed for a long time.
in 1930 (perhaps) this centre of service was shifted to a house in front
of Balcony now known as Prasad House under the same Manager or in charge
or Head of the centre, Rene. At that time a second person joined him to
assist. He was Mrityunjay Mukherjee and within a short time Rene left
the service and Mrityunjay Mukherjee took over the charge. All this process
of changing was automatic according to the circumstance and necessity
and due to some unknown impulsion from the Mother’s Divine will for the
necessity of progress of the individual.
The activity was gradually increasing as the number
of inmates of the Ashram community was increasing with the increasing
numbers of rented houses. There were only 2 paid workers with the In-charge
who was the main worker. There were old houses taken on rent with minimum
numbers of light points with very old wires and taps for water. No plug
was given without special necessity and special sanction of the Mother.
There was only one tap in the house for all the necessities. There were
only repairs of the taps and lines and installations, no new replacement
was allowed. In the dept. there was one small table, two stools and one
small cupboard (for store) made of packing box-wood.
the store cupboard there were two switches, two holders, a few meters
of wire and some nails and screws and some repairing tools and tackles
were kept. There was one ladder for attending the work. One light point
with a 40 w bulb will be given to each one in his room. With special permission
of the Mother under genuine necessity a 60w bulb may be given. In addition
to the electric and water works other varieties of work, the Mother asked
to attend and maintain to this department. There are polishing, painting,
nail fixing, drying wire fitting and some more which we find noted in
work diary from 1932 onwards. These diary records were asked by the Mother
to show Her every day after the work, for Her advice and attention
and it was signed by Her with necessary special remarks. Every
house was given a name (mostly on the Owner’s name) and the work allotted
every day was to be written in the workbook with the name of the house
and the name of the resident. The Mother would see all these in detail
and with spiritual importance. How much time was taken for each work was
also She noticed. Which house, which person and what type of works were
needed – how often, all She used to observe keenly.
1935 Bulada joined Mrityunjay-da to assist. He liked painting, polishing
and varnishing work and he was given these varieties of works in the beginning
but gradually he took up electric and water works also learning by experience.
In 1937 Mrityunjay-da had to help Pavitrada in some work for the Mother
and Sri Aurobindo and could not give sufficient time for the department
work. Thus Bulada had to take the over all responsibility of the dept.
and after some time Mrityunjay-da left the department. In 1938 the department
had shifted to new house in the next street called Josua House, at present
where it is, in one of the rooms.
a year before 1937 a new department called ‘Domestic Service’ had been
formed in that same house with Padmasinidi as incharge. Another dept.
also was there in one room called ‘Scavengers Dept.’ with Kodandaraman
as incharge. There was no proper toilet at that time. Only portable toilets
were there at that time. The Scavengers used to empty the commodes from
all the houses in the morning and collect them in the drums, which were
kept in this dept. for counting before throwing away in the dumping grounds
of Kuruchikuppam. After 1940 some new young assistants joined Bulada,
Chandubhai, Sudhir Ranjan Kalayanda, Ravindra Patil, Arunbhai, Kunalda.
Chandubhai and Sudhir Ranjan continued for a long time but others left
and joined other departments, with the approval of the Mother. Then joined
Chinmoyda, Vishwajitda Kamalda and after some time they also left. Then
Phani, Gitenda and Mohan, Ushaben, Kayadi, Kusumben had joined.
In sixties the new phase began. The departmental work
increased and expanded and branched out to new depts. Such as electric
workshop with Mr. Chatterjee and radio-refrigeration with Biswanathda
as the head. The electric service remained for general maintenance and
payment of electric and water bills. In Govt.
side also the Dept. expanded and branched out. Before, in the thirties
all these electricity and water works were under one dept. called ‘Hotel
de Ville, Pondicherry’, that is Municipality. Under this dept. there was
a section called “Service d’ Electricite". This section used to look after
a D.C generator near the park and maintain the D.C supply in a very small
area of the town within Boulvard. Even in that area only for 50% houses
had electricity and water supply. Other houses were having Kerosene lamps
and well water. This Service d’ electricite used to install the meter
and take reading every month and collect the charges. For water there
was flat rate system called ‘Forfait’. There was no metering system for
water. Then gradually metering started when a new dept. opened during
fifties called Traveaux Publiques. Before that Municipality used to collect
the water charges.
There was hardly any appliance used in the whole town
and also in the Ashram houses up to 1950. After that, very slowly only a
few table fans were sanctioned by the Mother to some individuals under special
circumstances. These table fans of K.D.K make were purchased from ship (imported)
and used to be given wherever necessary (very rarely). Sometime after 1940-
a K.D.K table fans of 12" sweep was given to Sri Aurobindo. That was first
fan used in the Ashram. The Mother had no fan. Other appliances were out
of question. There was no water pump at that time and no other appliances
before fifties. Mother was against the hanging fans. In 1948 Sri Aurobindo’s
room was renovated and special heavy beams were put to fix a ceiling fan
with Mother’s approval. Those days the ceiling fans were very heavy. A pair
of heaviest D.C. ceiling fans was bought of Crompton make and 60"
sweep for Sri Aurobindo’s Room. Udar approached Mother for Her permission.
That was the first ceiling fan in the Ashram. The Mother examined thoroughly
the strength of all the beams put for the hanging the fan and compared the
weight of the fan and then she approved. It was a D.C. fan for the D.C.
supply. Then a rectifier was connected to it when the supply in Pondicherry
was changed from D.C. to A.C. Still now the same D.C. heavy fan is in Sri
Aurobindo’s room. The fan is serving more than fifty years. After sixties
very slowly the use of appliances started but with Mother’s special sanction
and up to 1970 one could count the very few members of the Ashram having
any appliance. And now people do not want to use the table fan. It has become
almost obsolete. Ceiling fans, water heaters, stoves, toasters, iorn, water
pumps were the first batch of modern appliances and radio air conditioner
T.V, generators were the next batch. And now TV, Tape Recorder, Mixie, Generators
Our store was in a small cupboard and its asset value
was Rs.10 maximum, during 1937-38. And now there are 4/5 store rooms full
of materials and asset value has reached to a few lakes. In 1928 there
were only 2/3 houses, in 1932 we find only 8/10 houses, in 1935 there
were 30 houses and in 1970 there were 300 houses. The connected load lights,
fans, plugs have also increased in the same manner. In the same way the
government side also had expanded very much with the increasing industrial
demand and developments. Electricity and water supply are two essential
wings in the progressive expansion of the social life. We have very friendly
relation with both electricity and water wings of Pondicherry government
from the early days of the Ashram. We keep very good relation with the
two government departments always. The relations becoming more closer
at all the level, top to bottom. That was the standing instruction of
the Mother to keep such a relation with them. We are considered to be
the best payment master of the bills. From the early days till now Ashram
is always very punctual and regular in bill payments. As Pondicherry is
a union territory, electric and water charges are under concessional rates.
Mother had always strict control on the use of power appliances and wastage
of electricity and water. She has made as a rule to put 40w bulbs in the
rooms, and 25w bulb for all other places in the Ashram houses and till
today we try to maintain that. This standard of illumination is good for
normal eyesight. She said for reading a 40w table lamp should be used.
She had much restriction on bed switches for safety and on all such things.
Mother had kept a very sincere and responsible care
taker of electric and water systems in the Ashram main building and Golconde
house. She kept Bulada in the Ashram and Chandubhai and Chandrakantbhai
for that purpose in Golconde house. When Bulada became very old and sick,
and unable to do such work, he brought me in Ashram main building. After
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother left their physical bodies, Bulada had maintained
the same serious attitude as a care taker of the Ashram house remembering
always their constant presence in this house – as before as ever. He himself
used to run the small generator whenever Town supply failed at night after
11 PM. The main powerhouse generator was used in case of power failure
during the day (from 4.30 am to 11 pm).
All rules and regulations of our department were introduced by the Mother
Herself; the timings were same as the timings of government electric department.
We still maintain the same timings in our department that is 7.30 am to
11.30 am and from 1pm to 5 pm. Pondicherry govt. depts. had also same
timings before. Since a few years they have changed the timings a little
but the mid-day break still, they maintain. Mother had instructed the
manager of our dept to give some tips without fail to govt electricians
when they were called for attending outside faults in the supply. She
would insist to call them from their office for tips if they had forgotten
to take it. This was Her indirect method of love and care for all.
The Govt. officials appreciate very much the principle of minimum and
restricted use of appliances in the Ashram houses and serious maintenance
of electricity rules and codes and standards to its maximum and the truthfulness
in our dealing with them. They have allowed us to take our generator supply
crossing the road to playground and dinning room. The powerhouse generator
supply- road crossing had been approved by Central Electricity Authority.
They had given lower tariff
rate of electric charge for the Ashram main building.
1928, the dept began with one manager and one worker. In 1945, there were
4 workers with the manager. At present there are 18 workers. Among
them some are exclusively electricians and some are plumbers. With the
manager now there are twelve assistants for technical and accounts maintenance.
In 1945 the maximum salary
of the worker was Rs.14/- per month. At present the maximum salary is
Rs.2500/- plus other benefits.
the beginning, for a few years the Mother showed the manager in detail
how to run the dept. to deal with workers, skilled and unskilled, how
to keep the accounts in minute details . The manager suitable for the
work, may not be a technically qualified person.. The Mother personally
used to teach him, develop his interests to do the work as a Divine work
and service. She gave him the required capacity and understanding necessary
for the work. She had the love and compassion for both the manager and
the paid worker equally.
After Dining Room this is the most important Dept. Without electricity
and water one cannot exist. Light, heat, air, water all these are the
fundamental basis of life and existence. People become impatient and annoyed
when the electricity and water stops due to some break down. Even when
both electricity and water become excess because of high voltage or overflow
of water that also makes people worried and afraid. At the same time there
may be break down of electricity or water line in many houses – then the
question of preference and dissatisfaction arise. It is a very unpleasant
matter whom to attend first . We cannot satisfy everybody immediately.
To attend the work in our houses is somewhat difficult. Everybody goes
out for work keeping the house locked or with a maidservant, who does
not know what disorder has happened in the house, electrical or water
line. Electricity is the most dangerous God
with whom we live very intimately. Mother had warned every inmate
not to meddle with electricity, not even to change bulb even in any bad
situation. The Dept. has to be informed for that. Sometimes people become
so much afraid and worried when he sees a water tap drip or a spark from some electrical joint
even at mid-night he will run to inform the manager or some one
competent. Whenever such trouble happens people become angry on our dept.,
they think, that the fault had happened because of our negligence or they
feel that we have given bad materials in the wiring or water fittings.
Nowadays some people depend very much upon refrigerators to keep certain
food items. When current fails due to some fault or break down they become
worried for their food stuff, which may get spoilt, specially the old
and sick people.
next trouble and annoyance is due to the interruption of T.V. programme.
They become very much disturbed when current fails. One more appliance
has entered recently in some houses with hell of worries, that is computer
. It is a very costly machine and T.V also is not less costly. Due to
storm and natural lightening these costly appliances get spoilt. The people
put the blame on us for their misfortune and damage. All such things we
have to face with right spirit and understanding We try to help everybody
as much as possible and practicable. Some inmates have become old and
sick and unable to come to the dept. to inform for any repair. Some case
they cannot write in English or even in any language properly. They don’t
find anybody to send their complaint to the dept. and suffer. That is
the problem of old age. – Some times they write without the name of the
house and we cannot attend the work,
but he or she might be waiting for us
for a long time. Thus various types of unusual circumstances we
face often which creates misunderstanding between both the sides. Often
we noticed a strange thing that the break down happens on Saturday evenings
or whenever some visitors are accommodated in the inmate’s house. Perhaps
they have the idea of enjoying the holiday and some occult force hampers
that. The Govt. Electricity Dept. of Pondicherry has improved the supply
system very much and interruption of power supply has become very rare,
but not completely absent.
In our Ashram community we have all types of people with varieties of
ideal of living from most austere and barren and primitive to the most
prosperous and modern types. That is reflected in electrical
fittings, equipments and appliances used by them. In the medical
section also the same variation is seen. Starting from the most primitive
naturopathy and acupressure treatment to the most
modern computerized allopathic equipments for medical aids are
used for treatments. Everything has its appreciation and acceptance through its own occult
intervention. It seems that every modern invented thing wants to show
their newborn face to the Mother, that is why they come to the Ashram
and Auroville. So we see that the most modern electrical equipments get
their entry in the Ashram as a sample representation. And the most strange
thing we notice that people with such up-to-date technical knowledge come
to the Ashram and propagate that new knowledge to us . We observe that
in the material domain the progress of electricity has taken the pioneering
leadership in the adventure of consciousness for the foundation of Divine
Life in a Divine body upon earth. And its outburst and achievements are
reflected in our Ashram life also . The Mother said that in the vital
plane the Divine has manifested in electricity as the godhead and in material
plane also we see the multitudinous outbursts in electrical technology.
Mother is showing the first out bursts of concealed supramental glory
through electricity, the godhead of vital plane and we here in the Ashram
electricity dept. welcome its victorious flooding expressions and expositions.
Our dept. works like a training centre in electrical wiring and plumbing
works for the the local people. Those people without any education and
without knowing any work join our dept. at young age. After a few years
of training they get govt. jobs or go to France. Many are French citizen
in this former French colony and get good job in France with the experience
they got in our dept. In France they get very good facilities with reference
of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
We entertain the govt guests of the electricity Dept. and PWD in a very
special manner whenever officials of Central Electricity Authority come
to Pondicherry for inspections and meetings . Those delegates never want
to miss a chance of visiting the Ashram. It appears that Ashram visit
is the true purpose of their visit to Pondicherry. Pondicherry government
electricity engineers are also very much obliged for the entertainment,
we render to their VIP guests.
Our Ashram is a spiritual institution, a yoga Ashram and the departments
are also considered to be the centers of yoga. These are centers of Karma
yoga mainly but essentially it is Integral Yoga. So the ideal and attitude
of the inmate workers are very different compared to an ordinary employee.
There is no bossing or superiority but there is a genuine reverence towards
the elders and seniors. As there is no salary system there is no obligation
or show of the work. There is no age limit for the work in the Ashram
. People like to work till they survive, up to their last breath because
it is a means of yoga discipline. They work more than expectation because
it is their own work, the Mother’s work and a means of self perfection.
The administration of the department is governed and executed by the unseen
eyes of the Mother. There is a great joy in this service work. There are
many honorary workers now a days who give their free service with deep
delight and reverence. There is a deep loving relation among the inmate
workers of each department. People work here with their utmost sincerity
and maximum capacity and perfection. To them it is a Divine work, a work
for the Divine Mother. So they do the work with great regards and devotion.
The work is worship for them. It is for them a yogic discipline, a service
to the Mother. It is a means of progress in their life of yoga. So the
work output depends on the quality and standard of the worker, and on
their development. Everybody has full freedom in his service work. No
one is a task master here. The Mother Herself is the true taskmaster as
well as the guide. She is the unseen impulsion which makes the people
work. They are called Sadhak and Shadhika and not worker or employee.