Racing was my dream, but the life there was not meant for me. I was always thinking: ‘When I am back in Aurovillle…’ Everything I wanted to do, I wanted to do here.
“I came here when I was 3 years old, so this is where my memories started, in Auroville. Growing up here was great: I would not have wanted to be anywhere else. But my mom was not ready for Auroville at the time, it was too much for her. So when I was around 5, I went back to Spain and lived with my mother, while my older brother stayed here. That time in Spain, it was nice, but it was not a highlight in my life, even as a kid I felt that it wasn’t my place. At one point my father came to visit me, and he said, ‘Ami, how would you like to go back to India?’ Straight away I wanted to go.
A big part of why I wanted to go back is that I was always in love with motorcycles, and in the meantime my brother had learned mechanics here in Auroville. He told me: ‘If you come back to India, I give you a bike.’ So that was the biggest motivation [laughs]. He finally gave me the bike when I was 9. It was a very small bike, a 50cc with three gears, completely built by my brother. I was only allowed to drive it in safe areas. The first time he gave it to me I wasn’t so sure I wanted it anymore. I was like: ‘Maybe not, maybe I am not ready for it. Eddie, maybe when I am 10 years old? That’s two digits, that’s a big boy,’ [laughs]. I was a bit scared. He just said: ‘No no, you can do it, here is the clutch,’ and he kind of pushed me off. I managed to tip it into first gear and drive; I kept going in circles and shapes. At some point it conked on me, and because I had no clue what the clutch was and how the gear worked, I had to push it back with the back wheel blocked. Just dragging the bike [laughs]. I thought I broke it. Yeah, that’s my memory of the first time I drove.
Straight away that was my biggest dream, bikes. I told my dad: ‘I want to be a racer.’ When I approached him seriously about it I must have been 13. He was supportive but he didn’t know how to make it happen. I thought ‘Well, if I can’t race the motorcycles, I want to fix them.’ So at 15, I trained in car mechanics for one year in Spain. After that year I came back to Auroville, and that was the best move I could have made, because I realized again that I am truly at home here. I lived in Kailash [youth housing] and it was the best time of my life. A bunch of young people, all the same age, living together – we were always going on adventures. And in that whole time I did mechanics. I would buy old bikes for very cheap and take them apart, and I would spend a lot of time in Pondicherry with my friends who are mechanics there. That’s how I learned Tamil, asking them about the bikes. I learned much more from the mechanics here than from what I studied in Spain.
That was also the time I started racing. It happened by coincidence. I was looking for parts for an old bike, my dream bike since I was a child, the Yamaha RD-350. I called this guy, he was from Chennai and we totally hit it off about bikes. We spoke for an hour on the phone, and I told him I wanted to race bikes and it turned out he was racing cars in Chennai. He told me to come, he introduced me to people. Finally I went on a track day, with my own bike, to try out the track. He said ‘OK, let’s see what you can do. Don’t go fast, get used to it.’ But I went as fast as I could – it was a dream come true. They were impressed and gave me a chance.
I didn’t have the money to get trained and to build a racing bike. It was very hard in Auroville, as a young person, to be able to sustain yourself and make extra to make your dreams come true. The reality is that, while we are a non-monetary economy in some ways, we still need to pay for things. Here you can make enough money to live, but can you also have a passion or a dream that costs more? We should empower each other and see how we can grow altogether, and not see money as something evil that takes you down. Money was a big burden in my life, trying to realise something that I could not afford. Once I had enough to support the racing I didn’t think about money anymore, money disappears. So if we empower everybody to the extent that money can disappear… The best way to have a society without money is to have a society where nobody has a lack.
In my case it wasn’t possible at the time, so I went abroad to Holland as some of my family is from there. I made money installing electronics in cars and buses. I worked for 7 months, 14 hours a day. Once I had enough I came back. I started working with Luca, and he supported me to race with the very little money we had. He is a better mechanic than me, so I said: ‘You build me a fast bike and I will win.’ Maybe that was a little cocky [laughs]. Luca gave me the cleanest bikes, we didn’t have the fancy things on it, the suspension and the electronics. We had the basics, but to the extent of perfection. The first time we went to the track, we did good. We were definitely the underdogs, with the most run-down bike, but we were embraced into the racing community. Straight away I went into the top 6, and slowly upgraded from bike to bike. Dangerous? Of course racing is dangerous, but you are ready for it. Whatever you are ready for, you can handle. Honestly, the way to the track was worse – the van kept breaking down, the traffic was crazy, the lights didn’t work… It was much more dangerous than the racing, for sure [laughs].
It took us 4 years, from 2012 to 2016. And in 2016 we became Indian National Champions. I was 24. That was my dream that manifested itself, to be national champion in the country that I am from. I am Spanish and Dutch, but I am Indian at heart. And I mean that. Because I feel this is home, Auroville and India.
I went to Holland and started racing for the Suzuki team in the Netherlands but after a few years, came back to Auroville. Racing was my dream, but the life there was not meant for me. I was always thinking: ‘When I am back in Aurovillle…’ Everything I wanted to do, I wanted to do here. And the European lifestyle was not for me, I love the culture here in India, and the people… There is a warmth in the people here, they help you, they make time for you, they are open. Here time is not on the same kind of path, not so strictly delineated. The loudness and the chaos, the life in India, I love it. So I came back recently without the need of racing because I have lived that dream, it was done.
When I came back it was different to be here. When I was living in Kailash somebody asked me: ‘What do you want to do for Auroville?’ And I had never thought about that. I grew up here, this is my home, I had never thought about giving back to it. But it made me think that I love this place, and it’s here thanks to everybody who did their part for Auroville. The best way to say thank you, I guess, is to contribute in whatever way you can.
I realized at that point that I had to do something to do my part. I learnt business from my father and set up an ice cream shop in Visitor’s Centre, and then recently we opened Cafe 73, a restaurant I set up with Luca. Because we love bikes, we built a kind of biker’s cafe. This way we can generate income for Auroville, for the projects that are happening here, and have gourmet quality food for Aurovilians. I enjoyed doing these things, the joy to build and create, but I don’t see them as mine. I see myself as the caretaker and the founder, or a manager, but they belong to everyone. And that’s nice, that’s beautiful. Now I am ready to move and do something new. I want to focus my energy on the next challenge.