Yolande’s role in Auroville’s history
By Gilles Guigan
Five persons played a key role in the battle between the bulk of our community and the SAS – they were: Satprem, Kireetbhai, JRD Tata, Sir CPN Singh and Indira Gandhi. Both sides agreed on this.
These five persons played also a key role in making it possible for Satprem to publish the Agenda independently from the Ashram. Satprem considered that the battle for Auroville and that for the Agenda were one and the same (2 of the 5 Ashram trustees were also members of the Executive Committee of the SAS). These twin battles seem to have been closely linked with the battle for India as it was the time of the ’emergency’ and then of Indira being in jail. Yolande played a key role in JRD Tata joining these twin battles. Her husband had been a top executive (secretaire general?) of Air France. When he died, in 1969, she went to bury him in a village in Alsace (to which her husband originally belonged) and she told friends there that she had been telling herself that whenever her husband’s long suffering would end, she would go to India. A lady there told her to visit her nephew in Pondicherry, whose name was Sat..something. (Satprem’s father was from Alsace while his mother was from Brittany.)
Yolande came to Pondicherry and met Satprem in 1969. Navajata met her also and asked her who had sponsored her stay in India. She replied: JRD Tata. Nava then asked her to try and convince him to support Auroville’s cause – which she succeeded in doing but not on the side he would have wished. Yolande (and her husband) had met JRD Tata years earlier at a gathering of IATA’s top executives (IATA is the international association of airlines companies). JRD represented Air India and her husband Air France. (Indira Gandhi had nationalised Tata Airlines, renamed it Air India and kept JRD Tata as its head. Later Morarji Desai sacked him). This is how a long friendship started… and how JRD Tata became a member of the first Auroville International Advisory Council established as per the first AV Act (1980) and of the IAC established under the second AV Act (1988).
Thank you, Yolande!
Memories of you seem to merge into one sweet and adventurous scene: Bringing J.R.D. Tata to Jehangir Art Gallery in Bombay, which prompted Jeh to get involved in Auroville. First securing windmills for the
water-supply. Then you brought him to Auroville. As the widow of the Chairman of Air France you were instrumental to safeguard the Agenda. In so many ways you helped and protected Auroville, often not even known to us in Auroville. You would suddenly appear on the dusty roads of Auroville and the next moment you had moved on. That was the gift of having been granted a life-long first-class airline ticket world-wide. You were always on the move. A nomad. I met you and stayed with you in Paris. A very gracious host. The mystery of Auroville has attracted mysterious beings. They come and awaken us to that mystery and move on. You are one of them.