On February 14, 2014, Mr Ashok Barat, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of FORBES & COMPANY LIMITED, along with a team of 43 senior executives of his company, visited Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry. Vijaybhai gave the guests a brief introduction of the Society, its activities, focus areas, vision and mission, the ideologies and the foundations on which these ideologies were based, emphasizing the Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s teachings. The agenda of the visit included a first-hand exposure to various projects of the Society.
After the introductory session, the Forbes team visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram dining room for lunch. The partaking of a meal in the community setting was among one of the highlights of the day.
At Sri Aurobindo Rural & Village Action & Movement (SARVAM), a Water Purifying Unit was inaugurated and a short opening ceremony was held in the presence of the esteemed guests, Vijaybhai and the team members of SARVAM, village women, children and volunteers at SATYAM, the community center of SARVAM. The Purifying Unit was a generous and solicitous donation from Forbes & Company Limited. The programme started with a 5-minute prayer in which 40 women and 200 children from the village—beneficiaries of various activities of SARVAM—participated along with the guests. This was followed by a ceremonial lighting of four lamps—one each by Mr Barat, Vijaybhai, a Panchayat member and a youth from village, signifying a connection which could lead to obliterating of darkness of poverty and deprivation for people belonging to all walks of life.
Cognizing and appreciating the work being carried out at SARVAM, Mr Barat in a short speech expressed his pleasure at being introduced to, and given an honorary membership to, the SARVAM family. He stated that the donation of Water Purification System was an apt opportunity for him and his team to help people in our country, and this act made them feel alternatively humble and proud. What was even more heartening and encouraging was the fact that he conveyed his intention of providing this boon not only to Poothurai, but to many other underdeveloped villages in the country, setting the ball rolling from SARVAM. He said the Purification System will be a harbinger of healthy and wholesome lifestyle for the village community. He stated, “My team members and I have come here from Mumbai and many other places. We feel absolutely honoured at making this offering and having a glimpse of the good work being carried out here.” Then he requested Vijaybhai to conduct a research to study health improvement in the short and long terms by using the Purification System donated for the village.
The Directors of SARVAM, Chitra and Senthil, expressed gratitude on the behalf of the recipients in a short speech. They talked about the great utility of the Purification System to the entire village, in addition to the women and children directly associated with SARVAM. A few activities of children, including handwork materials exhibit, Silambam martial art performance and spoken English skills, were displayed before the guests, who were extremely happy and impressed by them. Many of the FORBES representatives were completely overwhelmed in the way SARVAM has helped the village develop and progress in the last decade and conveyed that it was a unique experience for them to see first-hand the operations of a proactive developmental organization such as SARVAM. Some of them expressed a wish to extend their hand in any way possible to help this ‘movement’. They called it was a ‘memorable’ day in their career and life.
As soon as the Purification System was inaugurated, purified water was given to five village women in a symbolic gesture. All the guests conveyed their appreciations and good wishes to the workers and volunteers at SARVAM. Finally, the function ended with distribution of sweets to all those present.
The visitors made a brief halt at SHARANAM, a unique structure and an inspirational centre built on a 5-acre plot for SARVAM, is instrumental in nurturing the aspiration of an integrated approach towards village development in India. It has been chosen by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as one of the top five sustainable and green buildings in India and the details of the construction process are placed on their website. In order to bolster the rather lofty ideal, a great amount of research has gone into designing and building a centre which would offer a wide range of flexible spaces adapted for different functional requirements such as seminars, workshops, gatherings, etc. The Forbes team was extremely receptive and curious to know about the techniques and ideologies used behind building this innovative centre. As the two chief architects, Jateen and Trupti, gave a brief introduction to the project and replied to all queries of the guests, there was great appreciation regarding the fact that so many dimensions have been encompassed into the building, especially excellence in architectural design and choice of unconventional building materials.
The next visit on the agenda was to Matrikunj, a 43-acre farm where the Sri Aurobindo Society has been carrying out research in sustainable, organic, natural, and conscious farming. The Forbes team enjoyed fresh farm fruits straight from the trees and laddoos made with cow’s milk from the farm. A short introduction was provided by Baburam Bhai, the resident agriculturist and researcher on the techniques being used for the completely natural, free from pesticides and fertilizers, ‘conscious’ farming.
All in all, it was a day which raised immense possibilities of collaborative and developmental work for a progressive and bright future.