The spirit we cannot kill, the spirit will wait and press us.
The Solar Kitchen is our community canteen, where many Aurovilians come together daily to enjoy a lunch cooked on solar power. A large solar bowl on the roof collects the sunrays into one spot to turn water into steam, which is then used for the cooking. We spoke to Angelika, who helps to run this essential community service since almost 20 years.
Flowers to Food
Angelika is one of those people we can count on to keep an essential service running. Yet like many in that position, she did not exactly apply for the job. “Nearly everything I am doing now, I never intended and never planned to do. I ended up in the Solar Kitchen because Andrea, who was running the place, asked me to come and do the flower arrangements for the Dining Hall. At that time, Solar Kitchen received a donation of flowers from Ashram friends every week. So I started to make the bouquets.”
Angelika contracted an illness and was out for many months. When she came back, her job of arranging the flowers had been given to someone else. “I agreed with Andrea that I would take over the vegetable coordination with the Auroville farms. I did that for one year, and then Andrea left, and suddenly I seemed to be the only person to run the Solar Kitchen.” She remembers this as quite a shock. “It was absurd for me, after just one year in a huge new place… And I never really wanted to go into the kitchen, I just came to do the flowers [laughs]!”
She took up the work and looking back, has a good laugh about how little she knew about what the job would entail. “I had no clue what would be asked of me. But I felt I had to continue, because I had the feeling from the start that the Mother was drawing me into it. But the first 12 years were very tough. I felt that I had to endure it. I am always reading Mother and she often says things like, ‘Victory to the most enduring.’ So I felt that I had to do it. After 12 years, several things happened which made me shift in my attitude. It has a lot to do with learning what I can do as an individual, and what I have to give to the Mother, let go, because it is just beyond my capacities.”
Following The Mother’s Guidelines
One of the challenges Angelika and other Service executives face is embedded in the Auroville economy, where we are constantly dealing with our balancing act – ideal and reality. “We are in a situation where we are not following the principle which Mother indicated. A true Service in Auroville is funded 100%, and especially the basic needs of humans should be provided by the enlightened Centre. Now this enlightened Centre never really existed, because we were always this wild mixture from the start. People came to the position that decentralization is the answer to the possible misuse of people sitting in the centre. But then it’s only a question of time then until we come back to capitalism.”
For Angelika, it is clear that a lot of problems today come when Auroville moves away from the simple guidelines laid out by The Mother. “She tried to make it as simple as possible, yet now we have such a mess, such a complication. Wherever you go you have so many rules, you cannot build anything, you cannot move anywhere, you cannot start any enterprise. Whatever you want to do, you have a mountain in front of you, and this is killing creativity.”
Despite these challenges, she also sees that Auroville has a potential as long as it keeps looking to stay diverse. “A less diverse human experience will never be relevant, as Auroville is a laboratory for the whole earth. It only works if we are a mixture of the world: From those living most in their survival instinct to those delving most deeply into the spiritual life.We need bridges between individuals and in between these different aspects in ourselves. We have all of that here and inside ourselves, that is nice.
Even if I complain sometimes, I love it. Every individual has a subjective truth and we have to go through that. It feels difficult to be united in that, but this will happen through time. And if we fail, it does not matter. It is Her project, and everybody gets pressed by the Supramental force, everybody gets pressed strongly. It’s the only way, but it will take time.”
A Lighter Load
In the meantime, Angelika does her service day by day. She arrives at Solar Kitchen at 7, and before the COVID-19 lockdown, the team would come together and sing the Gayatri Mantra at 8. As she and Thushitha (the other executive) are managing the whole operation – food, supplies, maintenance of machinery and buildings, accounting – both never run out of things to do. “I like that it’s so multi-faceted, in terms of the work and the people. It’s a gigantic learning place, for me personally and as part of a collective.”
The collective aspect is on one hand the community and its different administrative bodies and on the other hand the team, a group that has gotten quite close over the years. “There is a good quality of everyone there, the mood is often good. We are 50 people, about half Aurovilians and half from the surrounding villages, mainly women. Of course the work is repetitive, and some tend to simply repeat without giving full attention. And I have a very good core team in my co-executive Tushita and our accountant, we work together perfectly.
After making sure that everything runs well in the kitchen – which outside of the corona times provides 1.100 lunches every day! – Angelika sits at the desk and follows up by email with all the different cogs that keep the Solar Kitchen machine running. “Then I have my lunch usually at La Terrace, which is part of Solar Kitchen. Then around 3.30 I go home. I was quite overworked in the first few years, and I might stay until 5, every day except Sunday. Now the work has gotten lighter, maybe I got lighter too.”
Are you visiting Auroville and planning to eat at the Solar Kitchen? Only registered Guests of Auroville can book a lunch. Please do so in advance by calling 0413-2622197.
Pictures © Auroville Design Consultants and © The Auroville Adventure