“Truuuuth!” was Seyril Schochen’s familiar salutation – always accompanied by a broad smile. January 7 is her 101 birthday. She passed almost a decade ago.
Gilles’ history project on Matrimandir corresponds with a stirring in my own life. Today, among the memories that are stirring, here are two of Seyril that bubbled up. In my mind, she, among many others, is inseparable from the history of MM.
In 1969 I was living in Peace at the Pumphouse. This was next to the first well in the area. (Mother had placed a pin in a map and asked Nava to walk north from there until he was more light-headed than usual.) One late afternoon near dusk, I saw Seyril standing in front of the hut. It was her first visit to Auroville. Saying nothing, she was simply smiling and looking about. I hailed her. “Everything is soooo beautiful,” she said dramatically. I thought I should probably go out and take a look. At first, the red earth and palmyras seemed normal enough. Then unexpectedly that barren field in South India transformed into a Great Wonder! We stood together silently for a long time. Both hearts aching at the experience and the realization that we were actually There!
17 November, 1973. We were concreting the Mahasaraswati pillar. There was a constant bustle of activity in an effort to sustain a seamless process. Unsnapping the full wheelbarrows from the cable. Tipping and emptying them into the form. Pulling out the concrete with mumptis – accompanied by the music of scraping and metal on metal. I took a turn with the needle vibrator. Dropping it into the slurry, I visualized the aggregate and cement flowing around steel reinforcement, the smooth surface of the pillar when the forms would be removed (no voids) and, for some reason, the massive walls of ancient temples. At the end, people seemed to disappear rather quickly. Tools were gathered and cleaned. The wheelbarrows and mixer were washed. Lights were being turned off. A hush fell. Only one other person remained on the structure. I watched Seyril as she continued to work. It seemed that the vast universal night was watching her. All was silent except for the continuous chip, chipping of her hammer.