“In Service Of the Sun” – Chamanlal and Shipra Gupta

Two materials, related to the Mother’s child, internationally known expert in solar energy, teacher, philosopher  and mentor Dr. Chamanlal Gupta, and his wife and collaborator Shipra, – a short video and an article.

A short documentary-presentation of a book about contribution and thoughts of Chamanlal and Shipra Gupta, produced by Auroville Design Consultants in 2017.


Tomorrow Morning, Sunrise

Chamanlal Gupta

It is indeed a blessing to be remembering and thinking of the Mother during this week of Auroville’s birthday. This occasion is sandwiched, very appropriately, between Her own birthday and the birthday of Auroville. This is a beautiful place and the Mother loved beauty very much. I think that, from somewhere She is watching over us happily.

Starting in early fifties—I first time came here in 1954—I had interactions with the Mother at three levels: first, personally; second, in regard to the work at the Ashram; and third, in regard to work at Auroville. I will limit myself to the last.

Firstly, I must submit that when we remember the Mother— who is so much dear and near to us—one cannot help, however one may try, but to speak a little bit about oneself as well. Though this is not very desirable, it is unavoidable. Secondly, I’m speaking from memory and I may not be able to repeat exactly the words She said. Also some of it was heard through others, who took my letters. So kindly excuse me for this.

I decided to settle in the Ashram in 1967 but I didn’t know where it would be— in Ashram, Auroville or elsewhere. I wrote to the Mother that I was coming to the end of my research studies and would like to come to Her but that I had no idea when and where and how. “Should I come to Auroville?” As for staying in Auroville—according to Navajataji’s scheme, one had to book a land here. For that I needed money but I didn’t have a penny because, every month, whatever I saved, I used to send to the Mother. She replied: “Not necessary for you to stay at Auroville but you can do work there.” I finally came in December 1967 and was asked to assist Khirod, Head of Building Service in the Ashram. It was in this department that the Foundation Urn for Auroville was made.

Sometime in 1966 or 1967 beginning, Roger’s design team came and they wanted to know what was happening in the field of “Building and Town Planning” in India. As I came from Central Building Research Institute, it was proposed that they should visit our Institute and Roger wanted me to go with him. I told the Mother that I had come after three years and unless She wanted, I didn’t want to go, and also that all arrangements were made: I had phoned the Director of my Institute to receive Roger’s team officially, even a lunch would be hosted and they will be received appropriately and Sri Aurobindo Study Centre at Roorkee would look after their stay and other arrangements. It is to be seen here how wonderfully the Mother accommodated so many considerations. She told me that it was not necessary for me to go but still I should talk to Roger. She was telling me—without telling that in many words, to convince Roger that it was not necessary for me to go—because Roger was going with a research team and it wouldn’t be nice to him if he felt uneasy at our Institute. I managed to convince Roger that it was not necessary for me to go. I tell this incident particularly because I think She gave a lot of stress on harmony which is very important. We tend to sometimes forget this but I think it is very important.

When we started working in Auroville in 1971, I decided that we should set up a meteorological station because if you have to build a town—for agriculture, drainage, architecture and energy in fact for everything—you would need meteorological data for at least five years. But we did not have a penny. Somebody gave us two thousand five hundred rupees and Piero designed the first meteorological station. He had estimated so accurately—since we had limited funds—that at the end of construction there were only three hollow blocks left! But then the Government of India required payments for instruments and as there was no electricity some of them were specially designed to work without electricity. We needed still more money. Finally, Janet who is here still, brought us some UNESCO gift coupons and we moved ahead.

On February 15,1972, the instruments arrived and we started installing them. On 28th February, which was Auroville’s birthday in Sri Aurobindo’s centenary year, I went to the Ashram at 4 o’ clock and told Champaklal “It is just finished; please tell Mother that everything is ready.” She replied: “Tomorrow morning, Sunrise.” Feb 29, 1972 was the anniversary day of Supramental descent in Sri Aurobindo’s centenary year and She wanted it to start at sunrise time on that day. If I had spoken one percent lie, I would have been caught! I wanted to tell this incident to stress that one had to be very precise with the Mother; there was no fooling around. She was the real Executive Director. Thus was started the first meteorological station and it recorded the first professional scientific data in Auroville. Unfortunately for 30 years it was the only professional data available. Auroville is now in the process of collecting data on water, soil etc., slowly, in three or four year’s time these will come up.

I remember that the Mother was very clear that we should be absolutely discreet and careful in our pronouncements. And She used very strong words to explain it to me. We had to go and meet the town planning authorities in Madras. We were on agricultural land, we had no town council, we had taken nobody’s permission and this was not how a town was started. But then if we had taken all those things we would never have started. The Government officer I had to see was very prejudiced and I had no chance to see the Mother prior to that because I had been informed at 10.45 pm that I had to go the next day early morning. When we went there he railed at me: “You are all stupid people; you have selected such a barren land, taken no permission, you are illegal, unlawful and this is not permitted.”
I thought, “My god, we are in trouble.”
“Why hasn’t Shyamsundar come? Why have you come?”
I said Shyamsundar was ill.
“Anyone could fall ill, even you could,” I pointed out.
“Why are you making this town?” he asked.
“You didn’t come to the opening?” I queried.
“No, nobody invited me.”
He was angry because nobody invited him for the opening ceremony of Auroville.
I said, “We are raw, new, we don’t know everything. Nobody knows all the laws. Please tell us what we can do. If we have done a mistake, we will apologise and I will ask Shyamsundar to write to you. But please don’t get angry.”

When I returned from that meeting I thought it was important enough to report to the Mother and so I went and reported to Her. She asked everything in great detail: “What did he ask? What did you answer?” And then She said, “One has to be very very careful in what one speaks because I do not want to jeopardize the future of Auroville at any cost.”

Many of our people say: “We belong to nobody in particular; we are international; we obey no laws.” The Government officers don’t like all this. And this really brought home to me, how careful the Mother was as to what one speaks. I think this still applies to us very much, particularly when we are dealing with people who are not directly involved in the project. We have to be extremely careful about what we say.

Afterwards, in 1972, when Sri Aurobindo Society, which was the governing body of Auroville, invited a UN expert, one Prof. Vernon Newcombe (who still comes here and has brought lot of money to Auroville) for helping us in the planning of Auroville. But when he came here, it was like Anglo-French war once again as he was an Englishman and Roger was French. And I in between, because I was asked by Mother to look after him, to be his counterpart. We had lots and lots of trouble. The first trouble was because I was an Ashramite. Aurovilians thought why I was working for Auroville, and Ashramites thought why I was working in Auroville when I had so much work at Ashram. Finally I got fed up and I wrote to the Mother: “I do not know what you have been told about me. You know I work half time in Ashram school; if you want I will make myself free. It will help me if you please write that you want me to do this work. I am very sorry to bother you and take your time.” You know there was always a clash in one’s mind. One wanted Mother’s direct reply and orders but at the same time one was very careful not to increase Her work too much. She was the first one to get up and last one to sleep and it’s none of our business to be bothering Her about every small thing; She wouldn’t say anything because She was the Mother but it was not nice to over-burden Her. She replied to me on a piece of paper, “Chamanlal, I want you to do this work.” She made it very clear: it was not a question of working for Ashram or Auroville but for Her.

So we proceeded merrily with Prof. Newcombe in spite of all the Anglo-French skirmishes. On the final day when the Professor was leaving, he suddenly decided that he wanted five zones instead of four as it was in the sketch made by the Mother. And five happened to be the number signifying ‘Realization’ and also the total number of petals in ‘Auroville Flower’.

So I went to the Mother and said: “This gentleman is talking of five zones now. I don’t know what to do!” She said: “Well I am not an architect or an engineer. I wrote what I saw. Now it is up to you people to realize that.” So when I told that we had to realize the plan the Mother had drawn, the Professor said: “If She had done everything what am I to do?’ I said, “You have to help us do it.” But he was a UN man and not a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. However, the next day, we all went to the Mother and he had taken the flower of Auroville. It was in April, 1972. As Mother was looking at that flower, very intently, he said: “Mother, I want to put this flower in Auroville, because this means the realization of Auroville. And there should be five zones, not four.” And Mother was not replying. Monsieur Andre, Mother’s son, thought that She was not hearing and was whispering into the Mother’s ear: “Mama, Mama.” But She was hearing. She suddenly looked up and said: “I will not put this flower in Auroville till Matrimandir is realized.” “I have written what I saw; now it is for you to realize,” She added.

She didn’t answer directly or contradict Prof. Newcombe and actually there are five zones, the Matrimandir zone,—at the centre—is the fifth one. She was very precise, very flexible but at the same time, very firm. And later on after we had had lots of fights— he became a supporter. When Sri Aurobindo’s Centenary concert was given by Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar in London, he came from his university to attend and he had become our friend. The initial difficulties with him were partly our fault; we were not used to receiving UN officials— they need a secretary, a car with a driver etc. But anyway it worked out quite well in the end.

Then came up the question of going to the United Nations conference in Stockholm. I felt, as this was the first United Nation’s Conference and since the Mother had founded Auroville town, we should attend. Though I did not say it in that many words it was decided that Roger and I would go to this conference. I knew the Mother was very short of money at that time because She had told me: “I will give you some money next year.” She had explained: “When Sri Aurobindo’s centenary comes I will get some money and I will give you some but just now you manage.” “Is it alright?” She had asked and I said, “Yes, it’s alright.”

So here She was spending money for us to go to Stockholm and I knew She did not like conferences. When Ruud was to go to Sri Aurobindo’s centenary conference in Delhi, She had said: “What? I thought he had work in Matrimandir.” So he didn’t go. When I went to Her to take leave, I was asking without asking,—you know, this we can do with our Mother, not with a spiritual master, because we were like little children, we didn’t know really—”Is it alright to go?” (See, are you willing to spend all this money?) She took my hands in Hers and just kept on caressing them and the impression She gave me was: it’s too late; just go and enjoy yourself. She did not speak one word— just looking amused—and it was done.

There are so many little incidents where one felt that She was very careful about harmony, about receptivity, about flexibility and about discretion in speaking about Auroville.

Last thing, which I wish to tell, is rather poignant. I was one of the two persons allowed to go to Her on my birthday in 1973. We at that time never thought that She might depart. Even if the thought came, we just brushed it aside. It was blasphemous. Although She did what She had to do,—as usual, giving flowers, smiling, writing cards, everything—I knew on seeing Her that something was not alright…

Then I had to go to Delhi, as ‘Man and Bio-sphere’ (MAB) project had started and we were looking for funds. (Finally it has come now, through the ‘Asia Urbs’ program which is really an extension of Man and Bio-sphere program.) When I was in Delhi, again the same thing: government officers, Planning Commission— big questions, big people, and I don’t have answers. Chairman of Environmental Committee in Planning Commission asked me: “Why have you come here?” I said: “We are building a city.” “No chance, there is no chance for the city under MAB.”  I said, “How can you to tell me that? You may be a big man but you cannot tell that; The Mother has said that the city will be built—and it’s already built somewhere; how can you tell that? You give money or you don’t give money, but why are you telling like this?” Then he softened down.

So many people said, “No chance.” I said, “Human beings cannot say this. You can say, Very little chance’ but you cannot say, ‘no chance’. That’s not possible. How can you say ‘no chance’?” Then I was trying to concentrate on the Mother to get Her answer as to what to say. Particularly,—I don’t say in meditation— but in regard to work, the Mother did make Her Presence felt. One could feel Her Presence and get an answer. There was no time to write to Her; and I was not feeling anything. I was feeling as if there was some diffusion, I could not contact Her. So, I wrote a letter saying that it was too important a matter for me to decide and I could not feel, get Her Presence. Was it something different? Or, what was it?” Shyamsundar still remembers that letter. It was May, 1973, the Mother was already withdrawing. So, this was very poignant. I would say, to all those who had worked with Her, who were in contact with Her, She had started giving small indications, which of course as good children we did not accept. How could We ever think that She would leave!

I think this is all I have to say about Mother, mainly in relation to my work in Auroville. Thank you.

[from: Darshan, Remembering Sweet Mother and Sri Aurobindo, SAIIER 2006].