My own connection with Auroville began in the mid 1960’s when I was a teenager. My mother had come in contact with the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, through Dr Edith Schnapper, a learned lady, who was a devotee, and part of a small Aurobindo group in the UK. Edith became a family friend, and books of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were always in the house.
I heard about Auroville quite early on, and saw early brochures. I was touched by the images and the ideal, and somehow knew that this was to be part of my future. However, adulthood soon brought love, a family and a career, and my attention was fully taken up by everyday life. However, my connection with Auroville continued, and hearing that Edith and her friend Joy had purchased this beautiful house called Boytons, in the Essex countryside, intending it as a centre for those interested in the Yoga, I decided to pay a visit. In the summer of 1985, I attended my first AVI meeting there, and a number of Aurovilians were there, including Alan Herbert, who straight away invited me to visit Auroville and stay with him in the greenbelt community of Samriddhi. I set off that winter.
My first visit to Auroville was a dream-like experience, and one of contrasts. The experience of the bus ride from the airport was terrifying, living in the Auroville greenbelt in a keet hut was a little frightening, weekly trips on a cycle to Pondy, exhausting, and daily work on the Matrimandir outer structure was exhilarating and very moving. I could tell then that Auroville was indeed a very special place which was the focus of a special force, and that Matrimandir was the focus of that force, even when it was outwardly nothing more than bare concrete beams.
I returned two years later with my wife Dany and then again with our young family. I didn’t know then, but the eldest, Matthew, was later to become an Auroville resident. I have been returning almost every year since that time, and it quickly became my second home – if not my first, as it has always been the place which I have felt the most at home.
During those years, I became more and more involved with AVI UK, in 1991 taking over the Secretary’s role from Joy. AVI UK meetings held at Boytons were wonderful experiences, and there were always visits by Aurovilians with their tales of Auroville life. With the sale of Boytons after Edith’s passing, the AVI UK address became our house on the South Coast, and we regularly entertained visiting Aurovilians there.
From the late 1990’s I was fortunate that my work enabled me to spend more time working for the AVI UK and the AVI International organisation, and make longer trips to Auroville, visiting for at least two months each year, as well as attending annual international meetings in countries around the world.
In around 2003, we were able to contribute to the building of a house in Samriddhi, the community I first arrived in all those years before, and this has become our special Auroville home. This year (2014) Dany and I have decided to take the steps to live in Auroville permanently, becoming newcomers, and finally coming home for good.