Friday, 29 September 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Martha Brown Fincke : 2

Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Martha Brown Fincke

...The College dormitories were not large enough to house all of the incoming class, so I with three other freshmen boarded in a square brown house near the campus. This was kept by a lady whose independent spirit and humorous outlook endeared her to us, despite her despotic rule. College lectures for the whole body of students with compulsory attendance were of frequent occurrence, and many well-known leaders of thought visited us.

On the Bulletin for November was the name of Swami Vivekananda who was to give two evening lectures. That he was a Hindu monk we knew, nothing more; for the fame he had won in the recent Parliament of Religions had not reached our ears. Then an exciting piece of news leaked out; he was to live at our house, to eat with us. and we could ask him questions about India. Our hostess' breadth of tolerance may be seen in receiving into her house a man with dark skin, whom the hotel had doubtless refused to admit. As late as 1912 the great poet Tagore with his companion wandered through the streets of New York looking in vain for shelter.

The name of India was familiar to me from my earliest childhood. Had not my mother almost decided to marry a young man who went as a missionary to India, and did not a box from our Church Missionary Association go each year to the zenanas? India was a hot land where snakes abounded, and "the heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone". It is astonishing how little an eager reader like myself knew about the history or literature of the great country. The life of William Carey I had read, had heard of St. Francis Xavier at Goa, but it was all from the missionary standpoint. You must remember "Kim" had not yet appeared. To talk with a real Indian would be a chance indeed.