Amudha and Sundaram

Connecting with Amudha and Sundaram was one of the first things we did as we got settled in Auroville.  I was very interested in the project she is involved in and as a first step, we made plans to translate/type student thank you letters to their sponsors. Fortunately for us, she had several rooms to rent and we ended up renting her brother’s house in a village right outside of Auroville (more about that later.)  When I first met her, I said to myself that if this lady is what she appears to be, I am really going to like her. She is someone who says what she thinks AND she has lots of interesting thoughts. I have been working with Amudha almost every day since we got here and, since we typically spend our evenings at the bakery using their wifi, we are really getting to know her and Sundaram, her husband.  They have become our second family.

Below I want to share their personal stories because I find them fascinating and they said I could.

This family has a lot going on. They run the Ganesh Bakery (see photo below) selling baked goods and serving beverages, snacks and meals; they have a small organic farm across the street, next to their house; she teaches kindergarten; and he manage eleven night school enrichment programs in surrounding villages to help the children succeed in school. The Flattards (last post) found the perfect partners in this couple who are highly intelligent, wanting to help the village kids get ahead, and open to new ideas and ways to do things.

Sundaram is 52 years old. He is the son of his father’s third wife who died when he was very young, leaving him in the care of his older half sisters who were not especially motivated to take good care of him. He went to school, but with his tattered clothes, was the subject of much cruel teasing, so he dropped out after the third grade. Around age twelve, he went to work digging the foundation for the amazing Matrimandir, the beautiful meditation center that is the heart of Auroville. There he connected with Larry, an American, who must have seen something special in this boy and took him under his wing.  Sundaram worked with Larry to start the first Auroville bakery (a different one that still exists at the other end of Auroville). Through this he learned to bake, run a business and do many other very useful skills and it must have given him an amazing confidence in himself. After some years there, he left to manage an Auroville project that provides an evening enrichment program to eleven poor rural villages. Once that was going, he opened the current Ganesh Bakery and, with the Flattards financial support and that of the association they created, worked with Amudha to build the sewing workshop and now the new computer center (both for the benefit of the village kids). Busy as he is, he makes plenty of time for his family, restaurant patrons and especially his niece Tajal whom he spoils and loves to death (see below).

Amudha is 50 years old. She grew up in the village where we are currently living (Alankuppam); her mother lives just around the corner from us. She said that her parents lost their first baby so when she came along, she was given lots of special attention especially from her father who treated her, uncharacteristically in India, more like a boy. At ten years old she was the first girl to ride a bicycle around here and it was a big deal. Now many girls ride them. Amudha, bright as she is, was a promising student and set to finish high school and go to college. Once she met Sundaram, though, that was the end of those plans and they got married when she was sixteen. She quickly had her two boys, Babu and Balaji (both now in their early thirties; they also have a 17 year old daughter, Sangary). When she was twenty Amudha was selected to be part of  a cultural exchange program and she spent six weeks in the US with some others girls from Auroville. This left a lasting impression on her and greatly improved her English skills. Since then she has visited France four times.  This woman does not ever sit still. She teaches kindergarten in the mornings, manages all the details of the student sponsorship program (dealing with requests for assistance; many of these kids’ homes were severely damaged in last December’s cyclone and there are some special medical requests), making  sure the sewing workshop has what they need to keep going, translating letters twice a year, interviewing all the sponsored students, and much more.

She loves to work in the vegetable portion of their farm. One day last week, instead of translating/typing letters, we learned from a young Turkish farmer visiting farms here how to build a seedling bed with sheet mulching (the base is cardboard pieces laid right on top of the weeds). Always something new to learn and another cultural exchange.

Now that you know Amudha and Sundaram, be prepared to hear much more about them.

The Ganesh Bakery

Sundaram with his niece Tajal

Amudha and Francine


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Patricia Ann Glasgow Gruher
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 18:38:57

    What wonderful people you are meeting! We love to hear their stories and I’m so impressed by how much they (and you) are doing to help others.


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