News & Notes 644:Rauf Ali – A Maverick Mentor with a twist!
Rauf Ali – A Maverick Mentor with a twist!
In our lives we come across personalities who do not fit into any of our set definitions of relationships; be it a friend, a mentor, an acquaintance or any other for that matter; at times we even dislike them for some of their habits and their way of life & yet they fill up a space in your life, which is equally important, crucial as well as inspiring. Without their company life suddenly feels like a void, which can’t be filled by any other; they are unique in their own ways, difficult to express! I have suddenly realized that with the passing of Rauf Ali, whose party I never attended; neither did I accept his casual invites for a drink, nor did I miss him in my daily life while he was around and approachable!
I don’t even remember my first meeting with him, but have never forgotten our heated exchange on one of the community meeting sidelines, which ended up being our introduction to each other; This is when we started connecting in sort of a strange way, which I had no idea will be the beginning of a long cherished company. His occasional visits to my studio were never planned but whenever he felt like chatting up on some Auroville issues dear to some of us, it was something that I waited for deep in my heart. His visits were full of laughter, chai sessions very unlikely of Rauf & hindi galis adorning some real Auroville’s typical characters & inside news! But over the last several years, we managed to communicate at a very intense level, as our love for Auroville to be a place close to what the Charter describes was equally intense, while he dealt with it through his Rough Speak in his own ways, I attempted some of it, expressed through my confrontational art installations on Auroville policies and challenges! This is where we connected the most and that is what brought us together occasionally!
I seldom got a chance to delve into his immense knowledge of ecology, environment and all other fields he was a known expert of, but got chance to work a bit on it during my post tsunami study on people’s perspective on development, in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, of which he was a known expert and a frequent visitor. His guidance proved to us very valuable, giving insight into the community issues, environmental challenges that Andaman Islands face due to its special geographical and ecological characters. Each of our meetings were in the presence of some of our dear friends or some important visitors where we opened up and chatted on the million issues that Auroville faces and the possible solutions or approaches to deal with these challenges. I was always amazed by his persona that attracted so many youngsters to him and many of them whom he mentored unknowingly and spontaneously. Every time his name was mentioned to some of the experts we met in our professional life, I could see another dimension of his personality, which made him so special as a person and as the mysterious character that he was. Rauf has been an inspiring company throughout my two decades of knowing him; his presence for me is so real in Auroville in the smiles of many youngsters, in the tributes of some of his fellow travelers in the world of environmental research, where I am now discovering altogether a new Rauf, just as he decides to move on to his next journeys, so suddenly, so unexpectedly!
Rauf, I shouldn’t have waited for your permission to come and spend my time with you this last time! This is now haunting me forever, as I wanted to start our scientific discussions with visiting experts and the topics we discussed on your last visit to Dustudio with Chamanlalji! I will not forget what we spoke of over that chai session in presence of Chamanlalji, where I had the pleasure of spending some of my time with two of you learned souls & your unusual amazing humour. Never had I thought I would long for another chai session with you; never thought that was to be my last session with you Rauf! I know you will hate me for this but I really wish you would now rest for a while, before you start shaking up the heavens! I proudly call you my friend now, Rauf, you will be missed forever, and I will miss your galis where we started! Auroville will never be so fortunate as to have another Rauf, as rough & as candid as you; You lived life on your terms, you moved on your way; your picture shared by a friend says it all!!