Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Cornelia Conger
As our American food is less highly seasoned than Indian, my grandmother was afraid he might find it flat. He told us, on arrival, that he had been told to conform to all the customs and the food of his hosts, so he ate as we did. My grandmother used to make a little ceremony of making salad dressing at the table, and one of the condiments she used was Tabasco Sauce, put up by some friends of hers, the Mrs. Ilhennys, in Louisiana. She handed him the bottle and said, "You might like a drop or two of this on your meat, Swami". He sprinkled it on with such a lavish hand that we all gasped and said, "But you can't do that! It's terribly hot!" He laughed and ate it with such enjoyment that a special bottle of the sauce was always put at his place after that.
My mother took him to hear his first Symphony Concert on a Friday afternoon. He listened with great attention but with his head a bit on one side and a slightly quizzical expression. "Did you enjoy it?" mother asked at the end. "Yes, it was very beautiful", he replied, but mother felt it was said with some reservation. "What are you thinking?" she asked. "I am puzzled by two things", he answered. "First, I do not understand why the programme says that this same programme will be repeated on Saturday evening. You see in India, one type of music is played at dawn. The music for noontime is very different, and that for the evening is also of a special character. So I should think that what sounds suitable to your ears in the early afternoon would not sound harmonious to you at night. The other thing that seems strange to me is the lack of overtones in the music and the greater intervals between the notes. To my ears it has holes in it like that good Swiss cheese you give me."
When he began to give lectures, people offered him money for the work he hoped to do in India. He had no purse. So he used to tie it up in a handkerchief and bring it back — like a — proud little boy — pour it into my grandmother's lap to keep for him. She made him learn the different coins and to stack them up neatly to count them. She made him write down the amount each time, and she deposited in her bank for him. He was overwhelmed by the generosity of his audience who seemed so happy to give to help people they had never seen so far away.
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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