News & Notes 644:Rauf
Very early in the morning of Friday, 1 April, our friend and brother Aurovilian Rauf Ali passed away in his house at Aurodam, surrounded by close friends and his sister-in-law, at the age of 61 due to severe physical weakening involving leukaemia.
Profiling himself as a “maverick biologist”, the tall and slightly stooping, Mumbai-born Rauf, obtained a doctorate in biology from Bristol, UK, did research at Harvard and the Smithsonian in the USA and was in India a well-known ecologist who advised top environmental organisations and universities. In the mid-eighties he came to Auroville to document its afforestation activities as a research assistant of Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science, fell in love with the place and its philosophy, and decided to stay. He officially joined in 1992.
Throughout his years in Auroville, Rauf kept up with his advisory and academic work in India, also teaching in Auroville and Pondy schools. His in-depth knowledge of environmental matters and high level connectedness with the Indian environmental & academic world proved to be helpful to Auroville’s green work. In the mid-nineties he served a term on the Working Committee, and has been helping a great number of Auroville-born youth through the years to obtain OCI status.
Many Aurovilians remember him through his ‘Roughspeak’, an irregularly occurring blog on Auroville’s Intranet, in which Rauf would not mince words when sharply criticising or ridiculing alleged mishaps, hypocrisies, policies or trends in the City of Dawn. His at times rather blunt ‘calling a spade a spade’ approach was a welcome treat for some while disturbing for others.
In the later years, Rauf worked for long stretches as a wildlife researcher associated with the NGO “FERAL” mainly in the Western Ghats and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. (See a small interview at […])
His exploring lifestyle, with frequent bouts of malaria and chronic asthma, has taken its toll. After visits to various hospitals in the last three weeks, he could not but accept that the body would not be able to withstand aggressive therapies, and was in peace with it. Extremely grateful to be able to spend his last days at home, with many Aurovilian friends lovingly taking care of him along with his close sister-in-law Tyaba, while receiving concerned calls from all over the world and with friends flying in from the Andamans and India, Rauf has now left us.
As per his specific wish, there was no viewing and the remains were cremated in Adventure in the afternoon of the very same day with hundreds of friends attending.
Farewell, Rauf. We’ll miss your lopsided grin and figure, and wish you courage, strength and love for this largest research of all.