Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Cornelia Conger
He seemed to feel especially close to my grandmother, who reminded him of his own mother. She was short and very erect, with quiet dignity and assurance, excellent common sense, and a dry humour that he enjoyed. My mother, who was a pretty and charming young widow, and I — who was only six years old — lived with them. My grandmother and my mother attended most of the meetings of the Congress of Religions and heard Swamiji speak there and later at lectures he gave. I know he helped my sad young mother who missed her young husband so much. Mother read and studied Swamiji's books later and tried to follow his teachings.
My memories are simply of him as a guest in our home — of a great personality who is still vivid to me! His brilliant eyes, his charming voice with the lilt of a slight well-bred Irish brogue. his warm smile! He told me enchanting stories of India, of monkeys and peacocks, and flights of bright green parrots, of banyan trees and masses of flowers, and markets piled with all colours of fruits and vegetables. To me they sounded like fairy-tales, but now that I have driven over many hundreds of miles of Indian roads. I realize that he was simply describing scenes from the memories of his own boyhood. I used to rush up to him when he came into the house and cry "Tell me another story, Swami", and climb into his lap. Perhaps, so far from home and in so strange a country, he found comfort in the love and enthusiasm of a child. He was always wonderful to me. Yet — because a child is sensitive — I can remember times when I would run into his room and suddenly know he did not want to be disturbed — when he was in meditation. He asked me many questions about what I learnt in school and made me show him my school-books and pointed out India to me on the map — it was pink. I recall — and told me about his country. He seemed sad that little Indian girls did not have, in general, the chance to have as good an education as we American children. Imagine how interested I was when Swami Shankarananda, President, Belur Math, told me he founded a girls' school in Calcutta!
My grandmother was president of the Women's Hospital at home, and he visited it with lively interest and asked for all the figures in infant mortality etc. So again it showed how much he was learning in our country to be used in helping his own people, because I was told that a maternity hospital was also founded later. How very happy that would have made my grandmother!
The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji
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