It all began in the waiting room of a dental clinic in Hamburg, Germany, where Julietta picked up an issue of ‘Brigitte’, a popular German women’s magazine. Leafing through it absent-mindedly, she stumbled upon an article entitled “Auroville, the freest place on Earth”. Before actually reading the article, Julietta decided: “That’s where I’m going!”, then, as she started reading, she realized that Auroville was in South India, but that detail, however major, didn’t deter her. She contacted the magazine’s information desk, which put her in touch with AVI Germany, where she got more information on Auroville. In January 1997, Julietta arrived in Auroville for the first time, where she had enrolled for a two week long organized tour, with a packed, well-planned programme, conducted by Joster and Shama.
When Julietta returned to Germany after this trip, the record company she had been working for was downsizing, and she was one of the many employees who got fired that year. The financial compensation she received gave her the opportunity to travel around Europe and the US: it was a year of changes. “My astrologer had told me to always have a packed bag next to my door, so I could make a quick escape,” she remembers. And at some point, she just decided that she was going to return to Auroville to settle. (And Julietta is that type of person. When she decides to do something, she just goes ahead and does it!) So she moved out of the house boat where she had been living in the harbor of Hamburg, sold everything she owned that was ‘sellable’, stored the rest in her parent’s attic, packed her bags and left…She arrived in Auroville, for the second time, on the 21st of March, 1999, on the day of the spring solstice. When asked what made her take the decision to come and settle in Auroville, Julietta hesitates: “That’s always the most difficult question to answer…There was that call…I had to come, I had no choice!”
After a few years of moving from community to community, of shifting from house to house, Julietta settled into a new one-room apartment with kitchenette and attached bathroom in Courage. And she’s done it up with such taste, she definitely has the skills of an interior decorator! With its ochre yellow floors, and saris in bright reds, yellows and oranges hanging as curtains, it exudes warmth. It is spacious and uncluttered, as there is no heavy furniture. Comfortable and cozy, it is also incredibly neat and tidy. Of course, Julietta, who is very organized and practical (I believe these are German characteristics) has a secret: a walk-in closet, where she stacks all her clothes, books, and her extensive music collection.
Since she arrived in Auroville, Julietta has not only been shifting from house to house, but also from job to job. Over the years, she has worked in the offices of the Travel Shop; in the kitchens of the Cafeteria, and various other restaurants as a cook (she’s quite a chef! ); conducted the ‘Auroville Introduction Tour’ together with Ross – cycling around Auroville in the hot sun with different groups of guests and serving as a ‘tour guide’ (Julietta likes social interaction and being with people); took on assignments for the Auroville web page; and even contributed occasional articles on various subjects to Auroville Today (Julietta loves writing, and has her own, very distinct writing style.) She is also the official contact person for the ‘German Social Workers’ in Auroville …And the list just goes on! Julietta thinks that the opportunity people have in Auroville of trying their hand at various jobs and getting work experiences in so many different areas is exceptional.
“I came here to help in building the ‘City of the Future’. I do have some problems with commitment, though,” she confesses. “It’s not that I’m irresponsible. If I say I’ll do something, I really try my best to do it. If I have to be somewhere and do a job, I’ll be there and do it. It’s just that I don’t like to be fenced in. I have so many different interests, and I want to be free to pursue them. For that reason, I’ve taken on a lot of temporary jobs, dropping in and out wherever and whenever I’m needed, and contributing my time and my skills.”
Music is one of Julietta’s passions. It has always been a very important part of her life. In Hamburg she ran the first hotel ‘for musicians only’, called After Midnight. “That was the time the music virus infected me to the point of no return,” she remembers. All in all she spent fifteen years in the ‘Rock’n’Roll business’– touring with various known and unknown bands, and then later working for different record companies, including the famous Mercury Records Company, where she worked as an assistant in the marketing department.
Though Julietta doesn’t play an instrument or make music herself, she loves to DJ, and is often sighted at dance evenings in Auroville. “As a DJ, you conduct the scene,” she says. “The DJ is basically the main host of the evening. If people like the music, the party is usually a success. Of course, I have my own style and tastes in music, but I also try to bring in variety, to have something for everyone.” One of Julietta’s dreams is having a space in Auroville where people could go and spend time in the evenings if they feel like, where they could interact socially, listen to music, or dance, have tea, coffee, or fruit juices, even snacks, and just chill out. “It would be a place where people can have fun, and dance. And not only the young! Older people love to dance too.” If one day this ‘Chill Out Club’ does open, Julietta would be only too happy to play music there.
Another of Julietta’s passions is pottery. Her first encounter with clay was many, many years ago, in Greece. However, she never went back to it until coming to Auroville, where, for the past few years, she has been ‘pottering around’ at different potters’ studios. She learned the basics of hand modeling and started making tea pots, vases and the like (some of her work has been displayed at various pottery exhibitions in Auroville over the last years). But what she likes best is hand-modeling heads. And she has a little collection of them neatly displayed on shelves in her apartment. “They cheer people up, more than pots do,” says Julietta with a smile. And it is true! A lot are funny, with comical expressions: the little old man with a mustache wearing round spectacles amongst others. Then there’s the American Indian with a dignified bearing and proud profile accentuated by his eagle beak shaped nose. They all look different: some have a puzzled expression, others look aloof and totally unconcerned, some seem to be reflecting, or in deep meditation, and yet others appear to just have had a good laugh…Two sets of her heads were recently displayed at the 2005 Harmony show in Mumbai, in which a number of Auroville potters took part. Tina Ambani bought one of them. “She was the curator of the show,” says Julietta. “And having her buy my piece, amongst many others, was kind of flattering.”
A set of Julietta’s ceramic heads, displayed at the Harmony Show 2005 in Mumbai. Photo by Ireno
Until now Julietta never actually went for pottery training beyond the basics. Three months ago, however, she decided to take part in an intensive seven-month pottery workshop at the Golden Bridge Pottery studio in Pondicherry, conducted by senior potter Ray Meeker together with Aurovilian potter, Rakhee Kane. “First, we learned how to make the clay,” explains Julietta, “It is quite demanding physically: first crushing the rock to make it into powder, and then carrying pots filled with water around, pouring them into tanks, mixing the water into the clay, then sieving the clay and putting it out to dry…During the first month, I came home totally exhausted every evening. Then there was the throwing process on the wheel, and during the first two weeks of that, I had back pain, as we use the kick wheel, and one really needs to get the hang of it. “
“The problem is that I’m quite impatient,” she continues, “and sometimes I have trouble concentrating on what I’m doing. But in spite of that, slowly I’m getting there. At least I manage to throw a proper cylinder now. What I don’t like about these workshops, though, is that I have to make twenty yam cups or mugs, or bottles, and they all have to look the same…How boring is that! But they say you first have to learn the technique, and then you can be creative, do whatever you want, get wild. And I know that’s the first step, but I just wish it didn’t take so long. When I model my heads, I take a ball of clay, I play around with it, and then the head is there, it is born. And I probably will never be able to reproduce it. That’s what I like most about pottery, the creative process.”
Though Julietta is taking the workshop seriously, she has no plans of really becoming a studio potter. “Of course I’ll continue to potter around, as I enjoy it so much. But I will see what other opportunities to serve the Divine pop up next year.”
Julietta has attitude, there’s absolutely no doubt about that! She is direct and not afraid to speak her mind…and she sometimes does so quite abruptly too. She’s also a little cynical sometimes, but has a great sense of humour, and is lots of fun to be with (when she’s in a good mood.) “I suffer from the pressure-cooker syndrome,” she confesses, “I explode very easily, sometimes about small things. But normally I also calm down very fast. Also India, and especially Auroville, have taught me some very important lessons. One of them is always touch your own nose (mind your own business). The other is never throw the first stone.”
Whatever she does, whether she’s playing German heavy metal, dying her hair an electric blue (yes, she did it – “It gave people something to talk about,” she laughs), modeling funny heads with clay or just eating cheese bread (which she loves, she wanted me to mention it)…well, Julietta is Julietta!