Thursday, 6 June 2013

In memories of Maud Stumm

 ॐ वीरेश्वराय विद्महे विवेकानन्दाय धीमहि । तन्नो वीर: प्रचोदयात् ।

It was in the fall of 1895 that I first saw him, sitting with his back to the light in Mrs. Leggett's sitting room in Paris. I did not catch his name, but presently found myself next to him, and being asked if I spoke French. He said he didn't either; when I asked him if in his opinion English would be the next dominant language of the world — as they seemed to be the coming race — "The next great leading force on the earth will be the Tartars or the Negroes" — was his astonishing reply; and he proceeded to give his reasons. I found that he dealt not with decades or even centuries but with vast ages and movements of races, as judged by his knowledge of the past.
 

Then I inquired who this deep-voiced man was, and was told he was a holy man from the East, Swami Vivekananda. It was long after this that the flower of the Italian army was destroyed utterly by the Negroes of Abyssinia, and I recalled the prophecy that sounded so unlikely!
 

She saw him at a dinner given by Mrs. Francis Leggeit at the Metropolitan Club, New York, in 1896.
 

Besides this wonderful guest were three others, one of them the young Boston woman who had taken the prize for the "Hymn of the Republic" sung at the World's Fair. She was little and sat very erect, with an alert expression. Swami was rolling out Sanskrit and translating the ancient glories of India, nobody daring to speak. He dwelt finally upon the spiritual superiority of the Hindu, even today. Thereupon the Boston lady interrupted: "But, Swami, you must admit that the common people of India are way below the cultivation of the same class in, say Massachusetts; why look at one item — the newspapers!" Swami, recalled from his poetic flight, raised his great eyes and regarded her silently. "Yes, Boston is a very civilized place," he said. "I landed there once, a stranger in a strange land. My coat was like this red one and I wore a turban. I was proceeding up a street in the busy part of the town when I became aware that I was followed by a great number of men and boys. I hastened my pace and they did too. Then something struck my shoulder and I began to run, dashing around a corner, and up a dark passage, just before the mob in full pursuit, swept past — and I was safe! Yes," he concluded, "Massachusetts is a very civilized place!" Even this did not silence the little woman, and with astonishing temerity she raised her voice again to say, "But, Swami, no doubt a Bostonian in Calcutta would have created just such a scene!" "That would be impossible," he replied, "for with us it is unpardonable to show even polite curiosity to the stranger within our gates, and never open hostility."