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Posts Tagged ‘Auroville’

A place grows on us. It offers a comfort zone which we get used to. We might dislike the place for so many things. But when we are away for some time, the gravitational pull again comes into play. We start missing the place.

Lakshmi

Lakshmi

Pondicherry is no exception to this general rule. While here, we might bemoan the lack of civic sense, the streets littered with garbage, the reckless driving on the roads and the absence of adequate parking space in the town area. But take us away for some time, and we start missing it somehow. We yearn to get back to the humidity and the heat of the place.

What is so hot and happening about this quaint little town, perched on the Bay of Bengal, you may well ask.

Consider the following.

A small group of close friends

This is what makes Pondicherry so very special. Friends who are helpful. Friends who are there when you need them. Friends who have helped us make Pondicherry a home, far away from one’s roots. Friends who offer constructive criticism. One may not speak to them or see them for quite some time. But the underground cable connections remain in place.

For a nature lover

The restless waves of the Bay of Bengal somehow sweep away all that bothers one on any particular day. Watching an early morning sunrise is an uplifting experience. Mental peace reigns.Moon

A unique experience is that of watching a golden-hued moon rising out of the horizon a day or so after any full moon day. As it slowly changes its colour from a pale yellow to a light blue and then to its customary bright silver, the shimmering waves below keep dancing in tandem. One simply marvels at the beauty of nature on offer in Pondicherry.

For a pseudo-literary buff

For pseudo-literary buffs like me, it is a cerebral delight to attend book launches which happen at regular intervals. Perhaps inspired by the literary geniuses who made Pondicherry their abode in the not so distant past, authors of all hues and genres make it a point to include the place in their launch itinerary.BookFrontCover

Home grown authors are never in short supply, ready to fling their latest works at an unsuspecting audience. Tamil, French and English books keep popping up at regular intervals.

Even yours truly has gone ahead and published a book in Portugal, and is pretty happy about the fact that he is spared the trauma of having to read his own work in Portuguese, a language he does not understand himself!

Food for the soul

For a music-appreciating person like me, a flute recital by Hari Prasad Chaurasia, or a santoor recital by Shiv Kumar Sharma, is as uplifting and purifying as a vocal concert by Kalapini Komalini.

Even though national celebrities happen to be in Pondicherry only once in a blue moon, the soft glow of inner happiness lingers on for many more years to come.

For an art lover 

Art galleries like Aurodhan and Tasmai keep the place alive and happening. Dance performances of all genres keep me hooked to the place. When it comes to theatre, institutions like Aadishakti add their own charm to the place. Auroville has eclectic performances scheduled almost every week. Screening of offbeat movies is a routine affair. Alliance Francaise also keeps organizing some exciting events.IMG_0446

Workshops on masks, outfits teaching Salsa and Zumba, Baul performances, folk dances – you name it and Pondicherry has it!

For the intellectual pigmy 

Talks of subject experts organized by the local chapter of Madras Management Association do stir up the manager within me, reigniting my entrepreneurial passion. Held once or twice a month, the talks are short, crisp and highly focused. Business strategies get discussed. Power dressing tips are offered. Management lessons from movies are put across. In short, lot of management wisdom gets shared by those who practice the art and science of management.

Improving my Spiritual Quotient

For someone who is trying to understand how businesses can be run based on sound values and ethics, listening to some charismatic speakers steeped in Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts often leaves one gasping for more. The content may be incomprehensible to someone like me, a novice in the realm of spirituality, but there is a possibility that the quest may bring about some enlightenment in due course of time.

The heartfulness program of Sri Ram Chandra Mission offers a simple way for the lay person to peep within.

Brahma Kumaris happen to be very active, as do so many other outfits of the spiritual kind.

Minimizing the Pumpkin Quotient

It is fun to work with like-minded teams and create events like workshops and??????????????????????????????? seminars which allow stressed out managers to explore the spiritual dimensions of management. This way, they get an opportunity to sharpen their skills. I get rewarded in return by minimizing my own Pumpkin Quotient.

Frequent endeavours being made by such organizations as Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research and Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Integral Management tend to increase the allure of Pondicherry.

Frequent guest lectures at academic institutions in the region also add to the gravitational pull of the place.

Keeping the body and soul together

  1. For the best North Indian food in town, the place you can head to is Roma’s Kitchen in Auroville.
  2. For vegetarian seekh kababs: Hotel Anandha Inn/Annamalai
  3. For the least greasy samosas in town: Madhu Sweets, Mission Street.
  4. For good tea (meaning not the milky tea we get to slurp otherwise): Sekar Snacks, a tiny joint right opposite Mithai Mandir.
  5. For greasy Punjabi dishes: Punjabi Dhaba off Mission Street.
  6. An eatery which transports you back to the ‘Life of Pi’ days: Indian Coffee House, Nehru Street.

Keeping alive and kicking

Howsoever oppressive the heat, a walk along the promenade leaves one feeling invigorated.

To a young-at-heart senior citizen like me, Pondicherry offers a wide array ofYoga Dhanurasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-Mel ‘pathies’ to choose from. As a follower of allopathy, one just needs to brave the crowded corridors of JIPMER, to be able to avail of world-class medical advice. For a focused attention on dental blues, Mahatma Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Dental Sciences comes to the rescue. Eye-related issues get readily addressed at either the School of Perfect Eyesight or the Aravind Eye Hospital.

For occasional forays into homeopathy, naturopathy, yoga and ayurveda, abundant choices are available. Acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology treatments are readily available. For spiritual healing, one just needs to walk in and meet a specialist.

Perhaps a day would soon come when a national level institute of Integral Medicine comes up here. My physical form will then not have to get compartmentalized into organs and ‘pathies’, but a holistic view will get taken of me as a whole being!

An accessible government

The upside of living in a small territory is that one could walk into any government office and meet smiling and helpful seniors. The problem gets heard. If it has merit, it also gets resolved as quickly as possible.

Experience of a unique kind

The kind of aggressive driving we get to experience in Pondicherry makes us fitdrawing to be able to drive any kind of vehicle in any part of the world. The dexterity required on the roads would make a circus stuntman squirm with shame. The kind of democracy on display on the roads could easily be packaged and marketed to train our wannabe politicians.

It is a unique experience which makes one feel as if all those rushing about on the roads are ardent functionaries eager to play their part in the French Revolution, following the dictum of Liberty and Equality but sans Fraternity.

Satisfying the wander lust

If ever boredom threatens to kick in, a short picnic at Alambara Fort (on ECR, 40 kms towards Mahabalipuram) is my recipe. It has long stretches of shallow water one can wade through and a pristine beach yet unsullied by the ravages of tourism.

A day’s trip to Gingee fort (60 kms, towards Tiruvannamalai) is another attraction. Other than the steep climb, we get to meet herds of our ancestors who are more interested in the bananas and eats we carry with us.

The bliss of doing nothing!

With its scenic promenade, picturesque locations, an old world FrenchExercise 1 ambience, Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, Pondicherry offers the lay visitor a curious combination of hedonistic as well as spiritual opportunities. One could go on a spirited binge and enjoy an upliftment of a transient kind. Otherwise, one could soak in its spiritual glow and relish a bliss which lasts much longer.

Often, when relatives call up to announce that they are planning to pounce on us, one of the most frequently asked questions is this: “What is there to do in Pondicherry?” When I say “Nothing”, they get disappointed. I then proceed to cheer them up by pointing out that this, the opportunity of doing nothing, is indeed the Unique Selling Proposition of the place.

The soft power of Pondicherry is the reason I do not relish being a Non Resident Pondicherryite for an extended period of time!

(Photograph of the moon and the yoga illustration are both courtesy the world wide web)

(Published in the New Race Journal, Vol II, Issue II: New Racehttp://sacar.in/2016_NR_V-2_I-2%20Aug2016.pdf)

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The Indian view of the discipline of management speaks of four pillars of Integral Management – Wisdom, Power, Harmony and Perfection. Of these, Harmony stands out as a key enabler for CEOs and business leaders to achieve their goals.

An individual manager can improve his/her effectiveness by ensuring harmony and balance within oneself – between his/her inner thoughts and outer actions and between the mind and soul.Technology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEED

Large corporations and owners of the family businesses have to ensure that harmony prevails within the various arms of the organisation. The latter have to ensure that there is a clear succession plan in place, so that no disharmony is created at any stage. Maintaining a harmonious liaison with the financial institutions and the regulatory agencies is a key concern for many MSMEs.

Much like musicians in an orchestra, managers have to move in tandem with each other so as to create a symphony. A harmonious working inevitably leads to ‘synergy’, a term often used in the realm of management.

From a strategic point of view, operations have to be so conducted as to remain in harmony with the environment and the society at large.

A cordial relationship between the organization and its distributors allows a Marketing Manager to sleep peacefully.

A Finance Manager has to ensure the right balance between cost controls being implemented and the efficiency of departments which are affected by the same.

A Production Manager has to maintain harmony between his supervisors and workmen. He not only needs to deliver finished goods on a target date but also within the cost limits specified.

Harmony between management and employees is essential for a smooth run of the business. So is the harmony between employees at different levels of hierarchy and between employees of different age groups.

At the personal level, the owner of a family business has to ensure that a harmonious succession plan is in place. An individual manager can improve her effectiveness by ensuring there is harmony between her inner thoughts and outer actions.

At a one-day seminar on “Harmony in Management” organized by SACAR on the 20th of March, 2016, speakers from a wide spectrum of managerial expertise addressed the participants on the need for, and the ways to achieve, harmony in operations.SACAR Harmony 2

Dr. G. Natchiar, co-founder, Emeritus, Director Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai, the chief guest, stressed upon the importance of the Vision and Mission of an organization. She not only spoke about the “Aravind Eye Model” but also shared with those present,the innovative HR policies of Aravind Eye Care. Dr. Natchiar highlighted the frugal aspect of her organization which enables it to continue to offer affordable eye care to people of India and bring about harmony in its operations. She detailed the steps taken to improve the productivity of doctors, thereby making the operations cost-effective and the institution becoming a role model for similar health care providers in other parts of the world.SACAR Harmony 1

Dr. Ananda Reddy, the Director of SACAR, elaborated upon the four essential components of Harmony ― Collaboration, Goodwill, Benevolence and Tolerance. These alone enable organizations to work and progress smoothly. Management education in India needs to be re-engineered to impart training in these components as well, so as to make it more holistic and in tune with the times.SACAR Harmony 3

Mr. B. R. Babu, IAS, Secretary Welfare, Government of Puducherry, shared with the participants his experiences of bringing about industrial harmony in public sector undertakings. He highlighted the need for managers to take ownership of their tasks and fulfill those within the ambit of the law.SACAR Harmony 4

Prof. Sibnath Deb, Prof. of Psychology and Director Incharge of the Directorate of Distance Education, Pondicherry University, elaborated upon the psychological aspects of inter-personal relationships which alone contribute towards bringing about harmony and happiness in one’s personal life.SACAR Harmony 5

Yours truly spoke about ways of establishing harmony at work. I touched upon the manner in which challenges faced by managers from customers, suppliers, personnel, superiors, peers and subordinates could be successfully met.SACAR Harmony 6

Mr. Ganesh Babu, Director of “Winning Minds”, emphasized the importance of harmonizing oneself first. He stressed upon the fact that performance of CEOs is evaluated based on not only the results they achieve but also the quality of relationships they have with other stakeholders in their organizations.SACAR Harmony 7

Ms. Uma Prajapati, Director of Upasana, Auroville, spoke of the inner call of a professional designer and the satisfaction gained when serving the community around a business. She highlighted her singular achievement of creating Tsunamika, a tiny doll, which brought about a positive change in the lives of women affected by the 2004 tsunami.

Prof. Kisholoy Gupta conducted an interactive group discussion which led the participants to articulate their major takeaways from the day-long event and also imparted the value of appreciating others.SACAR Harmony 8

Dr. Arvind Gupta, Assistant Director, Directorate of Distance Education, Pondicherry University, coordinated the entire event. His back up support was invaluable in the planning as well as the hosting of the entire event.

Dr.Shruti Bidwaikar, Assistant Director, SACAR, summed up the proceedings and offered a vote of thanks.

The seminar received an overwhelming response from participants coming from various walks of life, like government officials, management educationists, corporate executives, businessmen, Aurovillians, entrepreneurs and students.

The Integral Management Group of SACAR had already covered the facet of Perfection during September 2015. The next event, focusing on the facet of Power, is planned to be hosted during August, 2016.

(http://www.bienveillance-entreprise.fr/entreprise-2/la-bienveillance-ou-lharmonie-dans-le-management-chez-les-dirigeants-indiens)

(Press coverage by The Hindu:

http://googleweblight.com/?lite_url=http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/harmony-in-management-builds-a-successful-team/article8408054.ece&ei=o_mBYHhC&lc=en-IN&s=1&m=225&host=www.google.co.in&ts=1459225799&sig=APY536zzDjXkqVeszf8Ya9EQqwJnWp7JFg)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/managerial-perfection-notes-from-a-seminar-at-pondicherry-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-inner-approach-to-leadership-and-management-note-on-a-seminar)

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Mairie hall b4 collapse

Governor Bontemps gave me a glorious life in the year 1870,

I had a long innings of 144 years, serving all of you aplenty.

 

Just a year after I was born, the French Parliament gave you representation,

Panon Desbassyns de Richemont had the first honour by your recommendation.

 

The first seeds of your emancipation he and Ponnu Thambi Pillai alone pooled,

The latter walked into the court wearing shoes and established equality between the rulers and the ruled.

 

Local governance brought in better degree of autonomous gaiety,

When the first ever Municipal Elections were held in 1880.

 

The novel concept of Renocants was introduced through the 1881 decree,

A beginning of assimilation of two diverse cultures I could then see.

 

In 1892, setting up of the Gaebele (Bharati) Mill was a historic event,

The starting up of the Rodier (AFT) Mill in 1898 was no different.

 

As the farmers started acquiring industrial skills, making different work ethics align,

Of the faint stirrings of a home-grown ‘Swadesi’ movement there was a clear sign.

 

Subramaniam Bharati soon arrived and ignited your patriotic fervour,

1910 saw Sri Aurobindo come in and assume the role of a spiritual saviour. 

 

V. S. Aiyar and Va. Ra. shortly followed, giving an impetus to the freedom movement,

The French rulers were aware but did not think it worthwhile to comment.

 

I watched in horror as the twin disasters of two World Wars unfolded,

I salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice with my hands folded.

 

The year 1947 made me rejoice as the Indian Union awoke to its tryst with destiny,

I watched in quite sorrow as 1948 saw a farce election being held with impunity.

 

I was a dumb and mute witness to Monsieur Menard’s brutal repression,

Leading to a complete hartal in 1954, giving the natives’ wish an expression.

 

Our de facto transfer to India came about on the 1st of November, 1954,

The rich tapestry of French influence of 280 years became a part of history and folklore.

 

I witnessed the dream of Auroville manifesting itself in a manner grand,

With quiet dismay I saw the promenade losing its lovely stretch of sand.

 

Matri Mandir added to the golden-hued spiritual ambience of the town,

Enthusiasm of people from all over making Pondicherry their home could never be put down.

 

Having people who use 55 diverse languages and together face a tsunami-like adversity,

It sets a fine example, a testimony to cultural harmony and unity in diversity.

 

I did play an important role in making Pondicherry what it is at present,

An oasis of peace in a vast desert which is turning increasingly turbulent.

 

I breathed my last this day in 2014, hoping I shall be reborn soon,

A new body received in a spirit of harmony and utility shall be a boon.

 

My soul continues to hover unabated, shining through many of you,

I hope that you shall overcome your differences and rebuild me with a holistic view.

(Historical facts quoted from ‘A Concise History of Pondicherry’ by Prof. P. Raja, ISBN 81-87619-03-1)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks)

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On the occasion of Auroville celebrating its 47th birthday yesterday, it was time again to soak up the early morning ambience and inhale lungfuls of ozone at the Matrimandir gardens!

ashokbhatia

Auroville, an international township near Pondicherry in the southern part of India, celebrates its birthday on the last day of February each year. A bonfire is lit in the amphitheatre next to the Matrimandir. Much before the sun has made its appearance on the horizon and the first bird has sung its mellifluous note, a bluish darkness envelopes the exquisite structure. The leaping flames of the bonfire spread a golden hue all around, as if fighting off the dark forces of nature. Soothing notes play in the background. Soon, all is quiet and a collective concentration starts. Gradually, as the sky starts revealing its azure shade, some wispy clouds float across in a leisurely fashion. Finally, the sun appears on the horizon. The Matrimandir presents itself in all its majestic charm and  ethereal beauty.

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A truly invigorating experience for the senses as well as for the soul.

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Auroville, an international township near Pondicherry in the southern part of India, celebrates its birthday on the last day of February each year. A bonfire is lit in the amphitheatre next to the Matrimandir. Much before the sun has made its appearance on the horizon and the first bird has sung its mellifluous note, a bluish darkness envelopes the exquisite structure. The leaping flames of the bonfire spread a golden hue all around, as if fighting off the dark forces of nature. Soothing notes play in the background. Soon, all is quiet and a collective concentration starts. Gradually, as the sky starts revealing its azure shade, some wispy clouds float across in a leisurely fashion. Finally, the sun appears on the horizon. The Matrimandir presents itself in all its majestic charm and  ethereal beauty.

IMG_0439

IMG_0441

IMG_0443

IMG_0444

IMG_0445

IMG_0446

A truly invigorating experience for the senses as well as for the soul.

Read Full Post »