Ego: Good or Bad?

Few days ago I was having discussion about ego. I forgot the context, it may be about medal winning by Hima Das or some other matter. The talk went to discussion about nationalistic ego. My friend had an opinion about some types of ego being good. As if from a god-gift, recently I chanced upon few short essays in Speaking Tree about Ego. It goes out in different perspectives so let me share the core thought from those.

Our ego is nothing but our illusion. Ego makes us to think that we are everything. Nothing will be changed without us. When we claim our siting chair as our own property. Ego makes us put a claim to everything.  Ego makes to put an ” i” and ” mine” for our family,house and friends. It become, MY country, MY friend, MY enemy, MY group, MY caste, MY language. We never understand that we don’t belong to ourselves. Nothing comes with us including our self when we leave this world. Self is only the label we attach to ourselves when ego rules our mind. Ego is just a illusion. Drop the ego and see that we are loved by everyone. Once there is no ego, we will automatically drop the false illusions in our mind. It is our ego ultimately stops our growth. Drop our ego and be free to walk as selfless human being. Ego is pure convention in our head. Ego is our pure imagination. Imaginary ego is cause for all our troubles. Get rid of ego.

Some say, you need at least a bit of ego to survive in this world. A little bit of ego is healthy. But is it really? What if it’s blocking the quality of our life? It’s easy to recognize the BIG ego but if you are looking for a more profound clean up, More importantly, why do I want to be free of ego? What’s in it for me? Let us see them:

Happiness. It’s as simple as I can put it. Imagine a weight falling of your shoulders, you can breath again, stop thinking about useless matters and feel love for those around you, no matter who they are or what they do. Could your heart handle that? Imagine you don’t feel down anymore, feeling no more failure and loss, and thinking you’re not good enough is something of the past. Experience the total relaxation by saying “Really I am nobody”.

What does ego mean?

The Meaning of ego in spiritual terms ego is body-consciousness versus soul-consciousness.

It’s all that you THINK who you are or think who you have to be. Mostly who you think you are and who you really are don’t match. The bigger the gap between who you think you are and who you really are, the bigger the ego. So in short, ego is a gap in your mind. You think you are the roles that you play:

•I am a mother

•I am a designer

•I am a teacher

•I am ….

but roles are not human, they are attributes, mere temporary identities that stick to you like post-it’s. Who you think you are usually starts with I am and connects with a role that you play. Who you really are is so much more. You’re a soul with a great history and a lot of experience on earth that has encountered love, respect, wisdom, peace and silence. Because of over-identifying with the roles that we play in our current birth, the roles that are connected to our body, we have a limited vision of our selves. It’s OK to play a role, we can’t escape from that. Running away from our responsibilities that come with those roles doesn’t bring any freedom. On the contrary. Yet, the idea that we are the roles that we play is exactly what limits us, blocks us from real interaction with others and with ourselves. In the worst case it can create a wall around our heart which is the recipe for loneliness and depression. In The Drama of the Gifted Child, Alice Miller describes depression as ‘Mourning for the loss of the self’.

Digging deeper – how to recognize ego:

  • ego has no heart feelings, no love
  • ego has no mercy
  • ego can not appreciate
  • ego is ignorance
  • ego does not share your value, it compares your values with others
  • ego has expectations, which is the biggest trap in relationships
  • ego is not value based
  • ego can not tolerate praise of others, unless we are attached to those that are praised
  • ego doesn’t let go seeing the failing of others
  • ego can not receive correction, only give correction
  • ego inspects others, self respect corrects oneself
  • ego is very powerful outwardly but very week inwardly
  • ego makes it difficult to establish relationships based on love

Ego comes through the door of comparison, competition and criticism, you want to show that what you are doing is better than what others are doing. To an untrained a tourist and ego-tourist look same. Both kinds go from one place to another. Both travel, make plans and spend money. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But there are differences, big differences between the two. Ego-tourist is like an instrument that is out of adjustment. He drives from place to place that are too soon or too late. He is not interested in the beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees, the bird song or the fragrance of wild flower. He goes on when the sloppiness of his drive shows he is tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the condition. When he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He is here but he is not here. He rejects the present, he is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the road. When he gets there, he will be just as unhappy because then “it” will be “here”. What he’s looking for, what he wants, Begining is all around him, but he does not want that because it “is” all around him. Ego traveller’s every step is an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

Self-respect and Ego

Now, if I feel proud about my country will be called a bad thing? Is it bad to have good opinion about myself?  These are the questions that often come to people’s mind when we talk about ego. There is a subtle difference between ego and self-respect,  let us try to understand it:

Self-respect is conducive to a wholesome life. The key to its being useful in the real sense lies in one’s prudence in exercising it. In the right proportion, self-respect is good. But excessive and unjustified self-respect loses its sublimity and positivity. It becomes insidious and mutates into the negative, pernicious force called ego.

Ego is the big, ugly sense of ‘i’ and ‘mine’ that leads to unnecessary complexities in life. It is inordinate self-obsession, narcissism, bigotry, rigidity and vanity to the point of being a pain for self and others. An unbridled ego can cripple one’s development in all facets of life. It can obscure one’s inherent virtues, eclipse one’s rationality and dwarf one’s personal growth. By and large, an egoist will be lacking in reason, sensitivity, clarity of thought, confidence, courage, transparency in speech and conduct and above all, a clear conscience. The sole aim of his life becomes the gratification of his sense of ‘i’ and ‘mine’.

To prove his point, an egoist may go to any length — howsoever unethical or inimical to others. He is blind to reason. Deep down, he is weighed down by misery and discontent and is starved of happiness. Hence, one needs to keep one’s ego well in check and be wise in practising self-respect.

There is a thin line between self-respect and ego. When we stand up firmly for a just cause involving us, it is self-respect and when not for a just cause, it is ego. The following illustrates this subtle difference: An old couple, in dire need of money, may refuse the grudging financial help from their apathetic children. Their refusal is rightly inspired by self-respect. Another old couple, also in financial crunch, but blessed with loving, caring children, may still refuse the financial aid from their devoted children. Now this refusal is unjustified and simply the corollary of ego.

There are many factors contributing to the growth of ego like insecurity, inability to face life’s challenges and high aspirations not in sync with one’s capabilities. Self-justification is a major contributor to ego development. We keep justifying our wrongs under the facade of safeguarding our self-respect, when in reality it is the undeterred havoc of the ego. This can be highly injurious to our personalities, behavior and relationships.

Conversely, self-respect is a propelling, uplifting force. A meek, unassuming and well-behaved employee, when persecuted unjustly by his boss, may depict unprecedented courage and tenacity in his retaliation. This unexpected show of mettle is driven by self-respect. Hence, self-respect is a pre-requisite to a qualitative life. It is synonymous with self-love. It bolsters our innate instinct of self-preservation.

Transcending ego is a herculean task. All the same, we need to work at it continuously. Sublimating the ego also helps mitigate it. When we live a virtuous life of profound awareness, we become deeply connected to ourselves. In such a state, we start becoming aware of our frailties. We start observing the ego in ourselves, thereby beginning to go beyond it. Ego can be a major blockade in one’s advancement on the spiritual path and in receiving Divine grace. The extent of its harm can be gauged from Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s dictum: “The water of God’s grace cannot collect on the high mound of egotism. It runs down.”

Rainwater will never stand still on high ground, but will run down to the lowest level: to become great, one must be humble. The nest of the skylark is on the earth below, though it soars high into the sky. High ground is not fit for cultivation, low ground is necessary so that water may stand on it. Unless one becomes as simple as a child, one cannot reach divine illumination.

Give up your vanity about worldly knowledge that you have acquired, and know it to be futile in the realm of higher truth. Be as simple as a child, and then only you will reach the knowledge of the True. Have no egotistical feeling, such as the conceit of the preacher, “I am lecturing, hear me all of you!” Egotism exists in ignorance, not in knowledge. He attains the Truth who is void of conceit. The tree laden with fruit always bends low. So, if you wish to be great, be lowly and meek. The scale that is heavier bends down, but the lighter scale of the balance rises up. So, the man of merit and ability is always humble and meek, but the fool is always puffed up with vanity.

Dealing with Ego

Often we are faced with situation where we are at the receiving end of unjust criticism. The way of the world is to find fault with others. The world is dominated by mind, which is motivated by ego. The nature of mind is to entwine us in ego. We think we are superior to all others. This egoistical thinking leads us to criticize others.

Throughout the day it is hard to escape criticism of others. Whether at home, during one’s commute, at work, at social gatherings, during leisure activity or while playing sports, or even shopping, someone is bound to come along and criticise us. There may be a mild sarcastic comment, a put-down, someone commenting that what we are doing is wrong and there is a way to do something better or an outright verbal fight. Even if we try to stay alone for an entire day, our thoug hts are besieged by memories of words spoken by others who criticise us. These thoughts may replay in our heads over and over again. And we react. By that single act borne out of our latent ego, we fall prey to the viscious cycle.

Sometime, we may accept what others may say and then feel bad about it. At times we become critical of our own self. Then, we take steps to change what we are doing even if we are right. These critical remarks may upset us and lower our self-esteem. Or, we may try to prove them wrong. We may fly into a rage and then think of ways to take revenge on them. The anger may escalate into verbal abuse or physical violence. If we do so, we are not only wasting our life’s breaths, but we are creating more karma for which we have to pay. We will also face health problems.

Worse, we may become angry and want to take it out on others. There is no good ending for retaliation and revenge. We just add fuel to fire. Instead, we want to put out the fire. One way to do this is to ignore the criticism of others. At first, we can politely listen and ask,” Is there any truth to what they are saying? If i listen to their remarks can i improve?” If so, we can take a good hard look at ourselves and make necessary changes so we can become better.

However, if we find that there is no truth in what is being said, we can graciously thank them and ignore their remarks. It is not worth getting upset over the comments of others when they have no validity. The key to ignore the invalid criticism of others is to forgive. If there is no truth in what people say, we should forgive them for being ignorant of the true situation, and move on with our lives. When life is so short and the journey back to God must be completed within our lifetime for us to have spiritual success, we do not want to waste time dealing with the criticism of others.

When we face criticism we can meditate to calm our minds from the reactions we may otherwise face. If we want to reunite our soul with God, we need to calm our mind to meditate. Meditation puts our attention on the bliss and intoxication inside. We are focused on the spiritual divinity within and not on the outer world. We are so intoxicated that we do not notice other people along the way.

  1. Differentiate Between Self-Respect & Ego; Geetika Jain;
  2. Drop your Ego; P Parasuraman;
  3. Subtle ego; Gopal Shree Uday;
  4. Become free of ego; Sri Ramakrishna
  5. Dealing With Criticism That Comes From Ego; Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj;

Mukt Software Sources

Someone asked me about where to buy Mukt software. These days most people get their software from internet. Android phone users will probably have used playstore, similarly there is Microsoft Software download center. Apart from these “official” stores, there are countless other stores from where you get your software. For Mukt software, biggest repository is   There are a huge list of software for almost every category. Let me share a few that are available for both Windows & Linux Computers and  I have found them useful. To see source of the software, click on the link.

Graphics & Multimedia: These are tools to edit and play multimedia files

  • GIMP is a Adobe Photoshop replacement. It allows you to do some heavy-weight editing of pictures.
  • Inkscape is for creating vector graphics, useful for logos, diagrams etc.
  • Blender is used for 3D model creation.
  • Scribus is for Desk-top publishing. I find it useful for making brochures, posters, invitation cards etc.
  • Audacity is to record and edit audio files
  • Musescore is to write music notation and play them on midi device
  • Istanbul is to record a desktop session. Unfortunately this work on only Linux. For windows users there is CamStudio.
  • LightWorks is for movie editing.

Office Application: Typically these are Word processor, Spread-sheet type softwares

  • Open Office :  This is like Microsoft Office suit.  Supported by Apache
  • Libre Office: Very much the same like Open Office. Essentially these two have branched off from same software. Currently it is hard to tell the difference.
  • GnuCash is for accounting. It is good for mainstream account keeping.
  • Money Manager Ex is another good application. It is simple but good for tracking personal finances
  • RedNoteBook is for keeping a diary
  • Mozilla Thunderbird is good for mail, calendar and task tracking

Creative Writing & Publishing

  • Bibisco is an excellent tool for planning your novel
  • Tex/Latex is a big group by itself for layout, formatting etc. There are some good Latex editors that make the task of writing on latex even easier. Ones I find useful are TeXstudio, TexWorks, LyX
  • Mendeley is an excellent tool for reference management. It has both mobile and desktop version, that helps me to keep my references handy and synchronized

Education (K-12)

There is a full OS specifically targeted for school kids in Ubuntu. It is called Edubuntu. Those who can give a separate computer to kids may explore the suit. Here I list some of the software that are also available in Windows.

  • GCompris is for small kids of 2-10 yrs, targeted for basic learning in the fun way. It has number of games that teach kids while playing
  • Celestica is a planetarium on desktop
  • GBrainy is for IQ test type of puzzles
  • Kalzium is for periodic table. It also offers molecule visualization and echemical equation solver
  • Klavaro is a touch typing tutor
  • Turtle is to teach computer programming


  • FreeCAD is to make 3D solid modelling for engineering drawing.
  • LibreCAD is good for 2D drawing
  • SweetHome 3D is for making lay out for buildings. It has a good library of common household objects. By placing the furniture one can get a realistic feel of the room.
  • Freemat is for mathematical analysis. It is a drop-in replacement of Matlab software
  • GnuPlot is for plotting graphs
  • R is a language with huge collection of software libary. It is aimed at complex mathematical analysis


Mukt Software is all that you ever need

Since 2015 I shifted completely to Mukt software. Mukt software is also known as Free-Libre Open Source software, shortened as FLOSS. This is a type of licensing policy that allows owner of the software to share and modify the software they use. If you like a FLOSS software you can give a copy to your friend, it will not be a criminal act of piracy. You can view Mukt software movement as a gift economy. Where you may use a software developed by others. You are honor-bound to give back something that you are good at. It can be helping to spread the movement, by bug fix, developing new features or sponsoring the developers.

In English, free is often used as something which has no price. Richard Stallman, the pioneer of Free Software movement, often uses the phrase “free as freedom” to explain what he means by free software.  When he was in Kolkata, I proposed the word Mukt, which sort of caught his fancy. He recommended to use Mukt software where people understand what the word means. That gives us the name as Mukt Software.

If you visit any computer store you will be given a big list of software that you can buy.  I use Ubuntu, I can actually download virtually most of my software that I need. I do need a big many of them. In the world of Mukt advertisement do not work well. So it has been a kind of exploring to find the software that work well. I thought the list maybe useful for some of you. I use Ubuntu, but most of these software are available for other operating systems like Windows and OS/X as well.

In term of use perhaps my most used software in Mail. I use Mozilla Thunderbird. I has a mail, calendar, task list, news feed reader all clubbed into one. This mail reader lets me keep all my mails in my computer, nicely categorized. I use the mail filter setting extensively to remove junk mails.

Perhaps next in the importance list will be office pack categories of software. I use open office. It comes pre-installed in Ubuntu.  I has Word processor, spread sheet, presentation making, diagram software. all in one pack, nicely integrated.  I use another nifty software “Dia”. This is useful for making flow charts. Biggest advantage with Dia is its ability to export the diagram in SVG format.

I write books and article. Tex / latex editor is another useful tool that I use. There are several options. Often, for big books the matter is best handled in multiple files. There,  I just use a text editor and compile them using a small program. For smaller article that fits in one file, I use TexStudio. This helps me to concentrate on my writing instead of spending my time on fussy formatting. Typing mathematical formulas, giving citation, indexing etc.  on Latex is as easy as typing. Best, it produces pdf on the go.

To keep track of my finances, I use GnuCash.  This is a great tool that can even be used for keeping track of finances by even small business. I like its reports and charts.  For my personal account keeping, I do not need all its features. Frankly, I have not yet explored all the options it has.

I do use some other softwares. Like listening to music, text editors etc. I use the standard ones that comes with Ubuntu. Next important software that I use is a sketching tool, that I use to make engineering drawing. There are actually two of them. LibreCAD and FreeCAD.  I beats me on why people can’t choose some different names. I get pretty confused on what is for what. One is for making 2D and other makes 3D.  I remember it as that easy sounding one is for complex design.


FreeCAD can not only make 3D modelling, it has been used to generate CNC programs, feed the data to mesh generating tools and perform basic strength simulations.

Next in line is a cute journal keeper – RedNoteBook. This I use to keep notes of my days.  Perhaps I would miss the other important tool – KeePassx, that I use to keep all my passwords in safe place.

The list is not exhaustive. There are other less used sundry tools like Gimp – for image editing, inkscape – for SVG diagrams, Mendeley – for book reference keeping, gedit – for textediting, shutter – for screen shots,  bibisco – for keeping track of book writing, Freemat and R for complex mathematical calculations, gnuplot for graph plotting, Fritzing – for electronics circuits, KDiff3 for checking file changes.  There are a few web based tools that I deploy for automation and managing my work. But those are a different category of tools that I will cover some other day.

Laxmi to Narsi, Palam with directed path

I joined IT-BHU (now IIT-BHU) in 1979. It was my first time in a hostel. We met so many new faces of nearly same age group. Most of us was worried with uncertainties of facing a new place, new environment and that dreaded feeling of “ragging”. With all these tensions around I found one guy was ever smiling. That was Laxmi.
Laxmi was ever helpful. In third year we had computer. It was our first experience in typing on qwerty keyboard. Laxmi knew typing and he helped me to pick up touch typing so that it was easy to interact with computer.


That year we had a rather short winter vacation and I did not go home. Laxmi also did not go home. On Dec 25th we discovered that most hostels are deserted. Life suddenly felt very dull sitting quietly in the deserted campus. We got a brainwave to go to Obra on bike. Fortunately that was not the age of internet, and we did not have many sites to consult and contemplate. The distance of 110 Km looked achievable. We packed our bags, took a bicycle pump for insurance and paddled our way to Obra. We took a decision on spurt of a moment, did not realize that near the end of our journey, we shall have to bike up the hill. There were five of us – Ashish, Sakil, Laxmi, Wahati and me. We faced the challenge but somehow made it to Obra by evening.


The journey was memorable. Biking such long distance and on hilly road had its own thrill. View around was fantastic. What eye saw compensated the pain we had on our legs. We spent couple of days in Obra and then returned on 31st.


Now after thirty odd years, most of the photographs that we took on the way have gone. Only a few prints remain, but the memories remain fresh.


Later in the next semester both Laxmi and I took Operations Research as electives. There were only a few students in that class. We used to clear each others doubts, in the process we become close friends.  In final year all of us shifted to new hostel. Laxmi was one of the first batch of students to reach hostel that year. He had reserved two rooms beside his for me and Srini, who was also very close friend during my college days. While returning both of them visited my house in Kolkata. That was last we saw.


Laxmi went to do his PhD in USA, I went for my PG in NITIE. During the student days we used to write often. Sometime for some books he wanted to be shipped from India. Some time, when chatting and skype became an option we had long discussion over influence of philosophy over scientific thinking. It was through such discussion I developed an awareness of of duality concept that graeco-roman scientists tend to follow and most of us follow the same line of reasoning unquestioningly and its difference with oriental pluralistic systemic thought process. After his PhD and few years of teaching, Laxmi was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and floated his first company – OHMS: Optimization & Heuristics Management Solutions Inc. He was very thrilled with the new venture and sent me his visiting card. During Dot-Com boom OHMS did good business by advising new companies on algorithms. As the bubble burst, so did OHMS. Laxmi was very fond of OR and maths. When e-mails became popular and came to India, he was one of the first one to send me an e-mail. His id was; orpi was combination of OR and Pi (representing Maths).


After OHMS, Laxmi floated many companies. Palam was one of the successful one that rode on the outsourcing wave. Palam acted as quality and delivery agent for many Indian companies, in the process it helped quite a few Indian companies to reach out to US market. Laxmi preferred the business model of taking share of company and being on board for the companies he helped to expand in US. Over the years Laxmi became board members in quite a large number of companies. During this time he preferred to be called as Narsi, which was short of his family name. Thus S Laxmi Narasimhan metamorphosed into Narsi.


During this time I also saw him develop a strong passion for community work. He was very passionate about the Swaminarayan Temple of Atlanta and loved to accompany visiting Indian celebrities. He used to be a shy person during his student days, but we saw him change to a heavily networked person and become founder of Indian Professionals Network (IPN). Whatever Narsi did, he will drop in a link or share the news clip. Like his getting elected as  chairman of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce or his photo being published in local newspaper.  Narsi was a co-traveller who took the road I did not take but we had a bridge (“palam” in Tamil as he explained it to me) that remained between us.  But then Narsi crossed a bridge that has no return path. A directed graph as Narsi would probably have like to call it. On 2nd May, 2016 I was in Pune. I was not reading the mails regularly. Suddenly I got a mail with this shocking news that Narsi has passed away after a massive heart attack on Apr, 29th in his apartment. This is a news that took a long time to register and will take a long time to digest. We will all cross the bridge that Narsi crossed at some point in time but this time he could not share the news.  This news brings association to a song that keeps buzzing in my head, let me share it with you all —

Flower Cycling options

Today in the news feed I saw a news that I thought I shall dwell a bit. The news was about a new venture setup by two friends Ankit Agrawal and Karan Rastogi. They are from a place that is pretty close to my heart — Kanpur.  The city is one of the typical polluted industrial city that has grownup organically without much planning. But what these guys did is commendable.

These friends realized that our religious minded people do not like to dump flowers in garbage. They would dispose these flowers in river. The flowers, approximately 80, 00,000 tons  that gets dumped in rivers cause enormous pollution. They have setup a venture to collect these flowers and use vermi-culture to convert it into good organic fertilizer.

It is a novel idea, but I would say it is also a waste of sorts. Flower has many things that we value – smell and color are two most visible thing in flower. Dried and grounded flower powder is often used as gulal that we use during holi. Essential oil from flower can be extracted by many different methods, like:

  • Enfleurage
  • Expressed Oils
  • Steam Distillation
  • Solvent Extraction
  • Fractional Distillation and Percolation
  • Carbon Dioxide Extraction
  • Phytonic Process
More details about it can be found in Nan Martin’s blog.
As we have a huge stock of flower, extracting this oil could lead to substantial increase in our GDP. After extracting the oil we may use the flower for making organic dye, that can be used in our textile and other cottage industries, part of it can also be used to make organic gulal. Only after we have actually extracted the usable parts, we should feed the rest to worms. Worms do not need the perfume and color, we do.
Recycling is good but making full use of the potential is better.

Retreat to Kolkata

After month long stay at Auroville I realized that it is not the place of my Karmabhumi.
We decided to move on.
Call of Pondicherry beach was alluring. We decided to spend a couple of days at Pondicherry.
This was also to correct our partiality towards Auroville. I had spent lot of time for Auroville
but never interacted earlier with Shri Aurobindo Society.  My stay at Pondicherry was to correct
 that anomaly. 
Best way to interact I found is to stay at “The Retreat” guest house. This place is at
 probably the best location in Pondicherry. Bang on the beach, just beside Secretariat. Backside of
 the guest house opens toward Roman Roller library. Most of the important place is within 5 min
of walk from there. SAS head-quarter is also in the same building.
All the rooms in Retreat faces sea, one just needs to peep out for a fabulous sunrise picture.
Puducherry to Kolkata is 1830 Km. Google claims it to be a 30 Hrs drive, but I decided to
keep the drive to approx 400 Km/day.  Before the return we also wanted to spend a day
at Golden Sand beach of Mahabalipuram. Bay of Bengal is just great at Mahabalipuram.
One could easily imagine why it used to be the favorite spot for the sea traders.
There is a hotel just beside the shore temple, we decided to stay there.
The reason was mainly good access to beach.
Most tourist spots and main market is also quite near to shore temple
Mahabalipuram sea is also good for surfing. Wanted to explore if this will suit my current
 fitness level. After watching the process I gave up the thought of trying it.
This beautiful beach is littered with garbage. The experience would have been
pleasant if someone bothered to clean the beach.
Aug 28th is my son’s birthday. He is in Chennai. We planned to celebrate the day with him.
My friends from BHU, Venkat and Ranga paid us a visit at Hotel.
Venkat had a visit from prospective international customer and 
Ranga is trying to create some extra hours to supply massive orders 
that is in his hand. It was very nice of them to make time 
from their busy schedule for us.
Greta’s classmate Shampa and our ex-neighbour Madhumita also dropped in for a quick chat.
Mohan is my classmate from BHU. He was out of station on previous days. Joined us in breakfast before we left Chennai.
Our first stop was at Vijaywada. Road was good but it was a long drive.

We discovered a nice restaurant at Rajahmundry – Mee Food Magic.
Good food, Amazing service – the place is being setup, ambiance was not so nice
but the behavior was like a good friend or close relative.
Loved having the food there.
Next stop was at Vizag. Hotel was very near to port.
A Chinese bulker slowly making its entry.
God knows when we shall have more container carriers
instead of these bulkers. 
OTDC Kalinga gives a back to home feeling. The place is just 5 hrs drive from Kolkata. 

A month in Auroville

Auroville is in the border of Tamilnadu and Pondicherry. It is around 5 Km from beach, part of it is right beside the sea. Auroville is best known for its tourist attraction – Matrimandir, that looks like a golden globe. Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. Living in Auroville is a unique experience that is difficult to narrate in mere words.

I had been in Auroville earlier with a tourist mindset, this time we went with a mindset to live there. Biggest challenge in Auroville is to find a place to stay. There are number of guest houses but they do not give any information on rate or availability. We started off by writing directly to number of them. Most did not bother to reply, a few did. We picked one that promised to have most attractive value proposition. It is a place called New Creation, that runs a boarding school-cum-orphanage. The money we give goes to upkeep of the orphanage. Staying there gives a feel of tour with a flavor of philanthropy.

Auroville is made up of number of communities. New Creation Community was started with in view to give  ‘first Aurovilians’ (i.e. the local people present on the Auroville land) a bridging place where they slowly and gradually could become aware that Auroville is for all people of good will and that, if they are willing, they can become Aurovillians themselves. The best approach to that was to create an educational environment, like a primary school, boarding and sports facilities. In order to meet the financial needs to run an undertaking where everything is free, including a Primary school for 240 children and a school with 30 small kids in a new ‘Free Progress’ experiment, they have created some income generating activities such as guests facilities.  There are 16 double rooms and 4 single rooms, all mosquito-proof, with fans, attached bathrooms, and a guest dining room with filter water and kitchen. There is a gymnasium, a sport ground with volleyball, basketball, 2 tennis courts, a running track and a small swimming pool.

We stayed in a double room with kitchen. There were huge trees all around the place and a place to park my car. Our morning used to start with pleasant sounds of bird and squirrel chirping, down side was the bird droppings that had to be cleaned from my car. Bird dropping contains rather large amount of uric acid, that needs prompt attention. Probably some covering or canopy would have helped, but we did not bother much about it for our rather short month-long stay.

The rooms were with basic amenities. There are many architectural experiments that has its own pros and cons. Hexagonal shapes probably saved some bricks while covering larger area. But this poses problem with rectangular furniture. What is good for beehive does not necessarily good for human being. Traditional wisdom of keeping the floor level higher than ground and roof overhangs were missed out by the rookie architect. These resulted in some avoidable visits of wild life  and occasional dripping roof during heavy rain.  This goes to reinforce the strong design concept. That many local custom and practices are there for a good reason. One need to understand them before trying to do anything better. Painting in the room are done by the students of New Creation. Some of them really looked promising.

There is a story that says a wise Zen monk was given opportunity by God to the see both Heaven and Hell. ‘What are the differences between Heaven and Hell?’, a young Zen monk asked an aged Buddhist priest who was renowned for his wisdom.

‘There are no material differences,’ replied the old monk.

‘None at all?’ asked the puzzled young monk.

‘That’s right. Both Heaven and Hell have a spacious hall with a big pot in the center in which noodles are boiled, giving off a delicious scent,’ said the old priest. ‘The size of the huge pan, the number of people sitting around the pot and the bowl of sauce placed in front of each diner are the same in both places.’

‘The odd thing is that each diner is given a pair of meter-long chopsticks and must use them to eat the noodles.’

‘To eat the noodles, you must hold the chopsticks properly at their ends,’ the old monk told the young Zen monk.

‘In the case of Hell’s kitchen, people are always hungry because no matter how hard they try, they can’t get the noodles into their mouths,’ said the old priest.

‘But isn’t it the same case for the people in Heaven?’ the junior monk inquired.

‘No. They can eat because they each feed the person sitting opposite them at the table. That’s the difference between Heaven and Hell,’ explained the old monk.

Heaven and Hell is created by the neighbor you have. We were fortunate to have an exceptional family as neighbor – Ashish, Lopa and Ishan. They were very helpful and excellent friend. Lopa is a teacher of the “Experimental School”. Individually they are exceptionally good human being. It is wonderful experience to know them personally and understand their attitude towards life.

Entrance Road towards New Creation is littered with garbage tied to trees. These are offering to God fulfill various greed. As a reflection to the inner nature, the place looks ugly. Hope someday someone will look at the ugliness and pray for the good of everyone and restore the place to its natural beauty. Till such time the trees mutely carry the burden of human greed and folly.

Inside Auroville it is a mixed bag of people and their motives.  Much like the flower that bloomed in the New Creation Garden. Part of it is bright and colorful, part of it is rotten and ugly. It is a city, just like any other specimen of human habitat, perhaps here in a more cosmopolitan and concentrated manner. Future of mankind has to find a solution to the problem that our civilization now faces and come out with a answer. According to Shri Aurobindo this will be the New Creation, seed of this lies within the current human being.


As you go ahead from ECR road entrance after New Creation School and the tree with offerings you find a nice colorful temple. It is my observation that people of tama guna is attracted and motivated by fear, hatred and anger. This is typified in this temple – animals and punishing demigods are prominent, deity is hidden inside a rather small temple.

A little ahead you find the new temple of consumption – Tanto Restaurant. Tanto is a Pizzeria Chain run by a Italian gentleman Daniel. Daniel came to India for a tour and had fallen in love with the country. He missed his home food so started a Pizzaria. Slowly he started making cheese for his Pizzas and Pastas. Incidentally the spaghetti that he uses are made in his factory. Part of it are sold in outside. Tanto is a beautiful case of backward and forward expansion. He has been in business for around 10 yrs and already having a turnover of around Rs. 20 million/yr.  He has 3 restaurants in Pondicherry and contemplating of opening in other cities. Considering he started his business without any kind of capital this is really impressive.

Beyond Tanto, you see a couple of small shops and hotels and then what you find is a road to nowhere. That is what Aurovillians call the road that cuts across Auroville. Perhaps the road typifies the current situation in Auroville.

When Mother was there she gave the goals to Aurovillians. It was her wisdom to plant trees on what was once a barren land. She also gave the direction to build the beautiful Matrimandir.  Aurovillians took her command unquestioningly and executed it meticulously. What we see in Auroville is the result of that Karmayoga – work done without any consideration of result and reward.

Greenery around Auroville is as much commendable as the Matrimandir that most tourists make a bee-line to see. They see the gold foil dome and most leave thinking it to be a golden globe. Only few tourist bothers to visit Matrimandir for concentration. Greenery and Matrimandir is like some scenery that you see beside this nowhere road.  Some units like Tanto, Aureka, Earth Institute, Maroma are like this lotus. If you care to look at them, they are beautiful at their own right. Lotus and Marshes are all part of nature, one cannot have one without the other. But like the road, Auroville lacks a greater common purpose. Mother is not here anymore in person to guide the community towards its goal of new creation. In this confusion, each pursues their own objective. Like a colony of ant, each pulls Auroville towards its direction of RIGHT, at the end it does not seem to move anywhere.

Life in Auroville is anything but boring. There are cultural shows. Many young foreigners uses Auroville as springboard for entry to India. Auroville has a special VISA status and some special property act. By this act a foreigner can work in Auroville without getting an Indian Work Permit. Many use this status to showcase their talent, get local press coverage and taste their acceptance before applying for work permit. Many will give training from within Auroville rather than spending their effort and money for Indian work permit. Here you see a Japanese performer, Yuhei Motoyama, giving Taiko performance.  This event is sponsored by Japan Airlines and Japan Foundation.

Apart from special performances there are movie shows, cultural fests that dots the social life of Auroville. Everybody is welcome to these shows and participation is the keyword. Focus is to keep the events simple that involves most people. It also gives people a platform to showcase their talent, get some reality check and provide necessary training ground.

Here you see capoeira performance being given by Aurovilleans. Auroville promotes capoeira for its use in self defense.  It an art that evolved in Brazil in order to ward off colonials. It is characterized by its fast and fluid movement, in the form of dance. Aim is to maim the attacker with minimal contact.

Auroville has some sandy beach. Unfortunately these are used by local fishermen to dry their fish. There are two beach guesthouses – Sreema (Tanto) and Repos. The stench  can be overwhelming at times, but other than that, the beach is good. It is unfortunate that there is no alternative to offer that will take care of the stench other than a conflict between tourist attraction and fishermen’s livelihood.

Some people are not bothered of the stench and prefer to live there. The beach remains sparely populated with this olfactory deterrence.

To get a flavor of city life one can visit Puduchery. It is about 10 Km from Auroville. Beach front is closed to traffic between 6:00 PM – 6:00 AM and resembles a mela.

At Le Cafe one can enjoy some fine coffee and sea breeze.

For a taste of French life, Pomande Resturant is a good choice.  Sitting there one could enjoy the sunny beach from the comfort of an air conditioner.

Our daughter, Sukanya came down from Pune to celebrate her birthday with us.  Being in Auroville we could enjoy both the city life and the life of a quite laid back town.

Pondicherry has a rather magnificent university for its size. As a bonus our friends daughter, Purva is studying there. Met her after a gap of 10 yrs. It felt as if we had a time travel of 10 yrs past.


Being in New Creation we grabbed the opportunity to celebrate our daughter’s birthday with the school kids. Evening was a party time with the kids. The community head (Steward – as he is called in Aurovillian lingo) Andre, joined us to grace the occasion.

The road to nowhere takes you from one highway to another. If you follow the beaten down metaled road and the road signs, you will miss the Auroville altogether. Here is a road that goes inside Auroville. Road signs are for visitors to take them to a car park. Unmetaled red road is the main road to get inside Auroville. The security guard standing there is to stop any car from entering the sacred road. One needs special permission and a sticker to enter Auroville with a car. That sticker is available from a office located at the center of Auroville. Just like this road, Auroville has excelled in wrapping itself in many Catch-22 rules and processes. One can spend their lifetime in getting to understand them.

Once inside, you are greeted with red road, complete with proper drainage. Auroville is gifted with people who knows their job, unlike current bunch of city planner that are scourge of most Indian cities. Our present city planners make roads without proper drainage that in turn make the city resemble Venice during every monsoon.

Auroville has a master plan that resembles like a galaxy.  Current development has been rather haphazard which was more driven by opportunity rather than plan. Currently Auroville is trying to consolidate according to the city planned under Mother’s guidance.  Auroville is supposed to be a city of 50,000 people. Given the attitude and current composition this looks to be a long journey. Currently there are only 2500 odd Aurovillean, locals seem not very keen to join the team and current bunch of Aurovilleans do not seem too keen towards that end.

There is a circular road that is supposed to run around the main facilities. This road has been paved with compressed earth blocks. Part of it remains incomplete due to land acquisition issues. The road looks rather narrow for a city that will have 50000 people.  Maybe city planner take a serious look and give due consideration for future.

Shri Aurobindo and Mother always advised for community kitchen. They wanted people to give less thought on food and channelize their mind and energy for other work. Solar kitchen takes this idea one step ahead with sustainable community cooking.  It derives its name from the big Solar Bowl on its roof, which provides part of the steam for cooking on all the sunny days of the year. The other part of the steam needed, is provided by a diesel fired boiler. Throughout the year approximately 1000 lunches are prepared daily, of which 540 go to the schools, 200 go out by tiffins and 260 to 300 are consumed in the Dining Hall. It uses vegetables and grains grown organically in and around Auroville. There is a choice between western items like pasta, mashed potato or fresh salads and items like idli, dal or chutneys. Daily curd and freshly made juices are available.

Just beside solar kitchen there is Auroville Super Market – Pour Tous Distribution Center.  This supplies all daily necessities of Aurovilleans. One has a choice of taking food from PTDC instead of Solar Kitchen. PTDC offers more variety like Sushi, Muffins, Steamed Vegetables and such thing. A typical lunch cost around Rs. 70/- at PTDC. Actually, it is not proper to talk about money in PTDC. Long term guests and new comers pay a monetory contribution commensurate with their consumption. For Aurovillean the service is kind of free. Circulation of money is discouraged within Auroville. Money is a powerful instrument that is essentially tamasic in nature. PTDC is created as an experiment to curb unnecessary buying habit. If a particular Aurovillean consumes more than average. He/She is given feedback to restrict their consumption.

On the same circular road and slightly away from solar kitchen there is Auroville library. This library has a fantastic collection of books on Sustainable living, alternate economy, religion and spiritual philosophy. Apart from “serious” books, it also has a good collection of fiction. It contains more than 30,000 volumes in eight languages – English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Russian and Tamil.

Auroville has number of industries thriving under its fold. Spirulina cultivation is one such unit. It sells its product under the brand name of Aurospirul.

There are some typical incense stick, decorative candle and paper product making units. It also had a thriving dress making industry that came up with a unique combination of European and Indian  styles. Most of these are now closing from the copy-cat competition from Pondy.

When you go to visitor center you will hear this large wind gong. This is made at Swaram – an shop that makes musical instruments for Auroville.


Talking about Visitor Center will be incomplete without a reference to its rather uniqui building material. The bricks that you see are not ordinary fired brick. Entire Visitor center is made of Compressed Stabilized Earthen Blocks (CSEB). CSEB is a environment friendly technology that used local soil to produce bricks without using coal or fire wood.

Auroville Earth Institute is one of the center of excellence in promoting use of such material.

There is a machining and fabrication shop Aureka that makes machinery for these earthen block. Current machines are manually operated hand pressed or semi-automatic hydraulic ones. It is working on a fully automatic block making press. I was working on its controller. You see here the machine being prepared for full scale trial.

Initial phase of Aurovilleans who came was given a rather large piece of barren land where even a blade of grass did not grow. They toiled and turned the place full of trees. As result of their hard labor water level of the area has risen and the place has become fertile. In this empty land, initial settlers built large mansion for themselves which is not sustainable for a city of 50000 population. Initial settlers feel entitled to a life of comfort, commensurate to the work they did in Auroville or else where. Current houses for the newcomers that you see in the picture are being built in the style of multi-storied flat. Availability of large supply of low-paid workers from nearby villages help to sustain the colonial lifestyle. There is a latent resistance among these Aurovilleans to let go of the comfort, help to raise living standard of the local population and assimilate them within the fold of Auroville.  There is equal reluctance from the locals to let go of money, inheretance and freedom to work anywhere. There is no clear solution that will be acceptable to both. Ideal solution would be where people live like family members, share the resources equally and work together for betterment of everyone. Such thing are easier said than executed in practice. Perhaps some divine intervention is store for the big change to happen. What is true for Auroville is true for rest of the civilization. World is poised for a divine intervention only its time may not have come.


Coming to Divinity, one gets reminded of Siva – lord of destruction that paves way to New Creation. The place is full of Akanda flower(Calotropis gigantea), the flower of Siva. I could not stop myself from sharing a picture here.

Perhaps as reflection to our mood a close specimen from nearby species choose to visit our place. You can see the tension in its face. Watching carefully from a distance about the happenings below.

It clearly did not like what it saw. Certain amount of aggression is visible. That is a typical animal instinct that is still prevalent even with us.


But it proved to be a wise monkey. I would say it understands aggression is not the best practice. Something we homo sapiens often forget. It choose diplomatic display of displeasure instead of proceeding with raw aggression.

Like a wise animal afterwards it went to mind its own business completely ignoring the surrounding. There is no fun in trying to change everyone all change begins with himself.

Decisions are always difficult to make. Some decisions are liner, they make incremental change and the effect is reversible. Some decisions are catastrophic. Once taken, these catastrophic decisions dictate future course of actions. There is no way to retract and go back from where you have started in catastrophic decision. Most decisions that affect life in real sense are such catastrophic decisions.

These are like these delicate droplets on a lotus leaf. They look apparently stable but a small ripple will make the drop running either towards the center or towards the edge. Once it moves, there is no way to stop it.  Perhaps this is the reason, people postpones making the move and clings on the tested belief and ideology, fully knowing time has come to get rid of these and move on. It is a classic example of tamasik feedback loop. Where inaction is caused by fear, uncertainty and doubt. It is this inaction that fuels degradation and chaos. This chaos further strengthen the grip of fear and uncertainty.  Way out of this downward trend is rajasik force. Rajasik force driven mainly by hope and greed. Current civilization is now standing at a cross road where the cycle of greed has encompassed every thing and do not motivate people for doing things that are good for others. Need of the hour is Rajarshis. Persons who are able and motivated to work without looking for reward.  Auroville was formed to incubate such Rajarshis. Current civilization needs such people, dedicated souls who work for their own passion and not for reward. Auroville has such people, but the number is certainly not higher than what is visible in rest of the society. Auroville does not have an environment that will attract other like minded Rajarshis to migrate and assimilate with Auroville. It  has some individuals striving for it, but the task looks beyond the capacity of human effort. Maybe some divine force will pave way for such change.


Legend of Irumbai and Sadhana Forest

When  you travel Pondicherry from Chenni or Bangalore via NH 66, you will cross a place called Irumbai, which is around 6km ahead of Auroville. Irumbai is famous for its temples which were built around AD 1000 – 1500. Irumbai has an interesting legend of Kaduveli Siddhar, a famous yogi who lived in the area some four to five hundred years ago.

According to the legend, Kaduveli Siddha was performing harsh (hatha) yoga under a peepal tree for days. The heat of his body was so intense that no rains came and the people were exposed to hardship and drought. The situation was so bad that it finally came to the ears of the King, who ruled from Edyanchavadi village. No one dared to disturb Kaduveli in his penance as he chanted the mantra of Eswara, and soon an anthill started to rise up around him. Finally a temple dancer, named Valli, devoted to the Lord Shiva, decided to do her best to get the attention of the yogi, and to rescue the King and his people from the adverse effects of his tapasya. Valli was successful in transforming the Yogi to a family man. Meanwhile the God of Rain was relieved from the torture he felt from the heat of the yogi’s tapasya, the rain fell in plenty, and the people were happy once again. In order to celebrate this event the King ordered a big Puja to be held at Irumbai temple, which was to be followed by a classical performance by Valli in which she would act out the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, in the form of Nataraja. During the performance, however, one of her anklets fell off, and she started to lose her balance and rhythm. Kaduveli, who saw the Lord Shiva in Valli, picked up the anklet and put it back on her feet. This exposed him to the ridicule of the King and court for having touched the feet of a dancing girl, and he was heckled and jeered. In the rage he invoked the Lord Shiva to come out of his temple and prove his innocence by causing a rain of stone. Immediately the lingam in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple exploded, and wherever its fragments fell became desert. No greenery will grow around these spots, including a crater at a distance of three kilometres from the village, still to this day known as “Kaduveli”. The King got frightened and begged the pardon of the Siddha, bowing down to him with all his entourage and pleading with him to quench the effects of his anger and curse. This appeased Kaduveli, who, repenting of his anger, said that what was done was done, but that in the future, people from far-off lands would come and make the desert land green and fertile again.

It is strange this peace of land was lying there for all these years with lunar landscape till two great souls, Yorit and Aviram Rozin started their reforestation work around year 2003 on 70 acre of arid, eroded land in the outskirts of Auroville. The land resembled Martian landscape with red soil, where not even a blade of grass was visible. Here is a picture taken in 2004 from Sadhana Forest archive that will give you some idea of what it looked like.

Yorit and Aviram was not the first person who tried to rejuvenate this place of land. Some one thought the place looks like African Savana and tried to plant Acacia. They hired a plane and seed bombed the place. Acacia seeds are hard to germinate, in the arid land these seeds were just wasted and were lying dormant for years.  Yorit and Aviram started their work with focus on restricting land erosion and water conservation.  Acacia is a hardy plant that can survive in near desert condition. For the same reason Acacia is also known to be a potentially invasive species, which is taking over grasslands and abandoned agricultural areas worldwide, especially in moderate coastal and island regions where mild climate promotes its spread. Australian/New Zealand Weed Risk Assessment gives it a “high risk, score of 15” rating and it is considered one of the world’s 100 most invasive species. Extensive ecological studies should be performed before further introduction of acacia varieties, as this fast-growing genus, once introduced, spreads fast and is extremely difficult to eradicate.  Some species of Acacia contain cyanogenic glycosides, which, if exposed to an enzyme which specifically splits glycosides, can release hydrogen cyanide in the “leaves”. This sometimes results in the poisoning death of livestock. It is not clear, even to the current volunteers of Sadhana forest on what ecological impact assessment was performed by Govt. or by the people involved before this alien species from Africa was allowed to be planted in such large quantities in this part of the world which does not have the bugs and other plant species that can resist its invasion and live with Acacia symbiotically.

Sadhana forest team has decided to live in the forest.  They take it more as a social issue rather than a technical issue. They live with the trees and rest of the inhabitants of the forest. As a society and in harmony with nature. The idea is to feel and discover the problem forest faces and solve these on the go.  Sadhana forest team organizes regular trip to the forest on Fridays. The idea is to educate people about conservation and living harmoniously with nature. The trip starts with toilet training. At Sadhana forest they use dry composting pits for toilet. Here our pre-tour guide Shiva is explaining us on how to use the toilet. Dry composting pit use very little water. This is very important for villages (and cities) with water shortage.

We aim for toilet for every house hold. Some of the villager has to walk kilometers to fetch a bucket of water. If we ask people to use this bucket of water to flush shit, then the idea of toilet for each home also goes down that drain. For those area where water is scarce, we need toilet that use very small amount of water. At Sadhana forest they use 1 liter of water for shit. The WC that we use normally is put on alternate usage.

For washing dishes they use ash and organic soap. Any left over food goes to composting pit. Dish is dip washed in four tub.

One may tend to question the need for subjecting oneself to this hardship. I think the idea is to develop that keep sense of scarcity of water in the mind of every volunteer so that they are in tune with the problem being faced by the trees.

As we walk down the narrow forest trail, we are stumped by speed breakers. These are quite big and we were wondering which municipality has planned them.  Very soon we came to know the speed breakers are meant not for us, it is basically meant for rain water. As rain water flows it gets restricted by these breakers and reduces the run-off.  The team uses various types of technique to ensure the water that falls on ground is retained with the forest.

There are two ponds in the forest to retain the retain water

These ponds hold water during monsoon. This helps to keep ground water level high during dry spell.

Here is a bund created to retain the water within soil and reduce runoff.


Here another voluenteer and current director of the Indian project explaining the water conservation measures to tourists.

To plan trees they have come with a innovative technique of drip irrigation. Drip irrigation sounds good, but when you try to practice it on 70 acre of land with not so obvious economic benefit the idea looks daunting. They use these plastic bottles with a wick to bottle feed the baby plants. These are required till the root reaches ground water and the tree is able to survive on its own.

Beside water consumption they also practice eco-friendly method of cooking. The stoves here are rocket stoves that burn wood very efficiently and without smoke. Just one small log of 1 inch dia is enough to prepare food for 20 odd people with these stoves

Roofing sheet that we saw is made of compressed polythene/plastic junk.

The picture on the left may look very familiar to people from Africa. Let me assure you, this is what Sadhana forest looks currently.

With all the water conservation measures working and some trees tended with baby sitting care, the piece of land is now ready for life. The Acacia seeds that were air dropped earlier are now sprouting every where.

The place looks like Africa with this thick Acacia cover.  Sadhana forest team has decided to take advantage of the situation as it unfolds.  The trees provide much needed bio-mass and water retention capacity. That help other trees to grow at present.   The team is aware of the danger that an alien species may pose. Acacia do not fare well with storm that is very frequent in this coastal region.  Currently the plan with Acacia is to take advantage of what is available but plant more trees that are of local origin. There is bound to be some trouble in cohabiting with an aggressive species like Acacia this drama of life and yoga will unfold layer by layer as the team passes through different phases.

Here you see two fully local people that’s me and my wife – Courtesy a fellow traveler from UK, who was kind enough to click the shot.


Here we are in the auditorium-cum-living quarter of Sadhana forest enjoying a dinner served by the Sadhana forest team.  This big hut is made of bamboo and palm leaves. Lights are powered by solar cells. There is no fan, but we realized it after a long time. With natural ventilation from these tall roof fans are not required.

This goes to show simple life is not necessarily full of hardships, all we need to do is to question what is important for us in life and what is not. There is a urgent need to Value Engineer our life style to reduce the environmental cost of our life style. We may find that it is still possible to live harmoniously with nature that will sustain our lifestyle. If such life style is sself sustaining, we may need to ponder the need of such luxury.  While in Sadhana we saw a film titled “No Impact Man“, based on a book by Colin Beavan. This is about a family that changes their lifestyle to get zero carbon footprint over an year, while living in Newyork.  While I do not fully subscribe to the asutre lifestyle being projected and suggested, I do think there is a need to rethink and apply our innovation to reduce our carbon foot print. Sadhana team has been able to reverse it all together, my good wishes for them in their journey, but this is a social issue that require a bit of effort from each of us.

Automating Building Manufacture

At Auroville I took the work on automating their CSEB manufacturing machine – Auram 6000. Compressed Stabilized Earthen Blocks are fast becoming popular for their obvious benefits. These blocks have superior thermal insulation than concrete. With proper design, they compare well with Concrete on earthquake tolerance. These are normally made from locally available material, thus reducing transportation cost. Curing time for earthen block is low.  As these blocks have better dimensional accuracy, it is possible to use these blocks without using mortar. These help to improve productivity and at the same time is the technology is friendly to environment.

Aureka makes manual and semi-automatic CEB presses. These can make around 65 types of normal and specialized  bricks. It has now come with fully automatic machine that will be able to produce around 500 full size (1′ x 1′) blocks in a hour. An average size 2500 Sq.ft building will normally require 15000 blocks. Automatic CEB machine can produce these bricks in 30 Hrs. At this rate CEB will rival the construction speed of concrete. In order to use mortar-less construction the blocks need to be within +/- 1 mm accuracy. Molding sand and soil to this level accuracy proved to be a challenge.

In this machine I am using PIC 16f4877a microcontroller to control the hydraulics. Micro-controller helps to automate movement of different rams. These speeds up the process and relives the operator from monotonous lever shifting work.  First day when we tried, the operator pointed out that for some specialized blocks, machine needs to be stopped at a certain stage for manual intervention. So I had to modify the microcontroller program. Next we tried a small sample batch. Position variations were very high. I noticed that the sensors were placed in a manner that is responds to change in position quite slowly. Oriented sensor positions to improve the sensitivity issue. Next issue was the problem of inertia in the control circuit. As sensor detects position, it responds by closing a relay in hydraulic. How much the ram will travel after receiving stop signal depends on:

  1. Response time of solenoid
  2. Viscosity of oil
  3. Plasticity of soil

These three variables depend on ambient temperature, humidity, condition of machine, amount of water added in soil. In simple words, it is impossible to control the inputs to provide consistent output purely on sensor feedback. Solution was to introduce some physical limiters at vantage points. This CEB press operates at around 100 bar pressure. In these pressures it is quite easy to damage structures unless proper design precautions are taken. These physical limiter, in turn required  modifications in the structure. After taking care of all these, machine started producing blocks with proper dimensional control. Here you see the trial run on the prototype setup.

With 65 different types of blocks to produce, next challenge was to find a convenient process to set the block height and mold depth. Each block require different setting. Sometime setting may need to be changed to take care of type of soil being pressed. For this I found it best to consult the person who will actually do the setting. After some brainstorming we settled on a process that is easy to use in field with minimal equipment. The process was documented.

Next stage was to take the machine for a full scale trial. CEB press works with auxiliary equipment –  crusher is used to break solid lumps of soil and dry mixture is used to mix sand and cement uniformly with the soil. These are required to feed CEB press at its required speed.  Here you see the full setup for production trial.

Kolkata to Auroville by car

After months of deliberation to finally decided to move to Auroville. Auroville is a big place with facilities spread out kilometers away. You need a means of modern transport to live and work there. Although two wheelers are preferred over there, we decided to take our car. We need car, because our aged parents can’t ride a scooter anymore.

Kolkata to Auroville is about 1850 Km, 30 Hrs drive. We planned to break it in 3 days trip of  8-10 Hrs drive. Our first stop was at Chilka, next was Kakinada and then at Chennai.

At Chennai we were to drop our son at his hostel and then proceed to Auroville.

It was a long journey and we had luggage for two new settlers: My son was to move to hostel and we – twp oldies were to move to Auroville. In my estimate, we need to carry plenty of luggage, so I put a overhead carrier.

We started off a day before RathaYatra – July 17. As I was about to leave Kolkata, I heard some rattling sound overhead. Stopped the car and found the overhead luggage carrier has come loose. It’s clamps were not sturdy enough to take load of the luggage. Fortunately there were just three of us in the car. We could somehow fit the odd boxes inside. My years of experience with tetris probably helped.

This time the idol at Puri is getting a new body. So it is Nabakalebar time. Nabakalebar happens about 20yrs apart, Bhubaneswar/Puri must have been flooded with devotees. On the way, we were given pamphlets about the arrangements. I must admit, this was quite impressive.
We avoided Puri and went to Chilka instead. Chilka OTDC cotteges were grand! Families with small kids should spend few days there.
There are small cottages with sprawling lawn, overlooking vast Chilka lake. Place is nicely maintained
On the other side of guest house, there are small hills.


There are some very old trees. One old Eucalyptus is pride of the site.
One fellow got interested with the new visitors and was spying on us from crows nest.


My car is getting ready for a dip at Chilka. (Maybe?)
You can see the old man enjoying his morning
Road between Chilka and Kakinada is very scenic
My son Supratik drove most of the time, reliving me to concentrate on my photography
Near the cities the road was 6 lane. This allowed us to drive continuously on 100+ KMPH. In the retrospection, I was thanking that  the overhead carrier broke off. It saved us lot of time and fuel.
Second stop was at Kakinada, it was a bit off the highway.  I booked it because, I could not get a descent hotel around Rajamundry. Anyway after we reached, hotel at Kakinada also proved anything but descent.  There was a cafe at ground floor of the hotel, at night that cafe got transformed into a cowshed. Wish I took the pictures earlier.
Rajamundry at that time was the site of Pushkar Mela. Few lakhs of people were there trying to take a dip at Godavari.  The river water must have turned salty with all the sweat that went into the river. Hope they get their desired salvation for the effort. Due to the rush the drive was slow. As Murphy would have determined, it was also the longest drive. I choose to drive most of it and so no picture on the way. Finally, we reached Chennai around 11:30 PM.
with NK and his family
Chennai was some small reunion. We met our ex-neighbor from Jamshedpur after a gap of almost 25yrs.  NK is running his network security company SNSin. He seems to do a great work of it and now fully entrenched in Chennai.
Greta met her school buddy – this too after a quarter century.  All smiles


Here is Shampa, with her daughter and hubby Sekhar

Chennai to Auroville is a short 2Hrs drive. We took the ECR road for its view. It was a short one, so did not stop to take a picture.