Dr.S.S.Sibia,28 June:My tribute: I was a student of Sherwood College at the time of the Centenary Celebrations (1969) of the school and clearly remember having General Manekshaw as Chief Guest. He was the first Field-Marshal in the Indian army lovingly called Sam Bahadur.
As the chief guest at Sherwood’s centenary in 1969 his staff had arranged for him to be driven from town by jeep (or as far as a vehicle would go) but Sam would have nothing of it. He got on a horse and rode all the way up as if he had never left Sherwood. Then, wearing a Sherwood blazer, he visited every single dorm — and bed — he ever slept in.
Of all the speeches I have ever heard his speech is the one I remember most vividly – it was short and witty, captured the collective hearts of the school be cause he touched lightly on those ingredients that are an intrinsic part of college life. I am producing the speech so that readers may get an idea of the lesser known aspect of his personality.
Your Grace, the Metropolitan of India, My Lord Bishop of Lucknow, Mr. Principal, ladies and young gentlemen of Sherwood: Yesterday evening when my A.D.C. told me that I would have to speak here, I was horrified. I thought the Principal had asked me to come and join the celebrations ; I did not realize he wanted me to sing for my supper ! Believe me, as I stand here, I am terrified. Those near me can almost hear my knees knocking and my teeth chattering. For eight years in Sherwood, I was at the receiving end.
It is customary on these occasions for the guest speaker to give a learned discourse or advice to young gentlemen. It is not my fault that, although I received my early education in Sherwood, I am not learned. Sir, I am fit neither to give you a learned discourse nor advice, I really want to tell you what Sherwood has done for me.
Sherwood has taken me to my present position. First and foremost, I learned to live alone and independently. I learned to fight – from the time I got up in the morning till the time I went to bed. When I went down to wash I could not find my towel, and while I was looking for my towel somebody pinched my soap. This, my young gentlemen, happened for eight years. I am rather disappointed as I look at you carefully (I shall put on my glasses) to see so few scarred faces. In my time, the guest speaker saw nothing but black eyes. I fought, and it stood me in good stead during the war in Burma, where we came up against the Japanese.
What else did I learn from Sherwood? During the war in Burma I went without food for many days. I was hungry. I withstood this and said to myself, "After all I went through 8 years of hunger in Sherwood.~ I was hungry in the morning; I was hungry in the afternoon, hungry when I went to bed at night. Does a similar situation prevail now? I learnt in school to hate my enemies. How ….Thanks to St.Joseph’s next door and when we played them on the Flats. From the corner of my eye I see His Grace, the Metropolitan, and the Bishop frowning. "You so we should your neighbour,~ is what they say. So we should, though I can almost hear the boys say, "Except St. Joseph’s."
Sir, it is a great privilege and a great honour to be able to come back to Sherwood after thirty years, to come back as a chief guest, to come back to address you boys who will grow up to be fine gentlemen. I thank you very much for having given me this privilege. I am sorry I cannot tell you anything about Mr. Binns, I have heard a great deal about him, but he was here after my time. May I hope that some day, some of you, will join the armed forces to rise to high positions.
Dr.S.S.Sibia is Director and Consultant at Sibia Medical Centre, Ludhiana