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Tribute to Mr. Surinder Sherring

Mr. Surinder Sherring The sudden death of Mr. Surinder Sherring on July 30, 1998, came as a shock to all of us. We bring you the speech Alan Mendonças made in the special All School Assembly that was held on July 31.

It is my sad privilege this morning to share with you my reminiscences of my close friend and colleague, Mr. Surinder Sherring.

I suppose it is not easy when one grieves for a friend, to find the right words and put them in neat sentences in logical sequence. The thoughts and feelings one has at times like these are felt deeply; words jostle and crowd each other till they tumble out -- understood only by a listening and loving audience such as you. I feel an immense sadness at the passing away of Mr. Sherring and I hope -you will forgive me for not being highly planned with a speech.

Most of you know Mrs. Sherring -- a lovely, bubbly, vivacious, cheerful lady who works at the Alter Ridge kitchen. Mr. Sherring was her husband, I know that Mrs. Sherring is absolutely shattered -- when I saw her yesterday she was exhausted with grief and tears. Today, our hearts go out to her and to her two children: Ameeta and Ajit, both of whom are alumni of Woodstock school. I know that in the weeks and months to come, you will be kind and loving to Mrs. Sherring in the kitchen, bearing in mind the loss she has suffered.

I first met Mr. Sherring 16 years ago, in 1982, when my wife and I joined Woodstock School. Of course, by then, Mr. Sherring had already worked in the school for the best part of 20 years. When I look back, those years seem to me to be gracious times -- and a large part of the graciousness in the Administrative Office was contributed by Mr. Sherring who worked as the Office Supervisor. They say that when a person dies, nothing remains of him or her, except the soul. For me, Mr. Sherring is still alive and there's some aspects of the aftertaste of having shared his life that I would like to tell you about.

Many years ago, a very wise teacher trainer instructed me to festina lente or hasten slowly -- a contradiction in terms. I suppose it meant that there was a rhythm to life, to activity, to thought -- that one should try to be attuned to rather than forcing the pace. Mr. Sherring seemed to live out this difficult concept. There were many, many written records he had to maintain in his office -- about staff, employees, people from outside the community. It all got done effectively -- without haste, or frenzy, or making onlookers nervous or tired. I can still see Mr. Sherring now, head bowed in his papers, asking you to sit for a while, while he completed your work for you. It was like being in a tiny chapel -- you know how it is when you go to a quiet place of worship you feel comforted, without asking for it. God simply hands you a hot cup of comfort -- you breathe easier, you can be yourself, while He sits in his easy chair and gets ready to chat with you or just watch together one episode of the soap opera that is your life. I think each one of us brings a certain character to the office or the desk we occupy. We leave something of ourselves behind. Mr. Sherring's office had a feel of comfort, it gave you the feeling that life needn't all be hurry or worry -- the old wooden chairs, the stapler that seems to have been there from so [++page 6] long ago, the wooden shelves which held hundreds of papers, the old fashioned window looking out over Tehri Road and the lovely forested mountain peaks.

The other quality I think about is the feeling of reassurance he gave some of us. My daughter sometimes wakes up to check if I'm still by her side. She looks for reassurance that someone who loves her is there beside her to protect her. I think that we adults and students also do that unconsciously. Since most of us are guests, it becomes all the more important that we find a 'home' at Woodstock. A lot of you have come very far to find a home. We look for familiar objects and people during our day to be reassured that we are accepted, respected, wanted, loved - we may not be able to analyze our thoughts but we know we want to feel at home, to belong. Last night, while I wrote this speech, I felt that way about Mr. Sherring -- perhaps more intensely because I felt the loss. He was one of those individuals who gave you a sense of permanence where impermanence was the stable state. I felt, and still feel, that I could always see him and feel reassured that there was a kind slow, gentle homely aura in a quiet man who was a devoted husband, a caring and affectionate father, a loyal and unassuming staff member.

We are an international community living out a very difficult experiment in existing and learning together-- from different parts of the world, different races, different ideas, languages. I feel that graciousness, quietness, humility and our shared grief define us, more distinctively more than anything else, as such. While we share in the grief, I would like to end with the poignant benediction of Genesis, Chapter 31:
The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from one another...

Alan Mendonças

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