Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda by Sister Devamata
Those who attended Swami Vivekananda's classes and lectures in New York soon grew familiar with a tall, very portly figure who moved about doing everything. We learnt before long that it was Miss Ellen Waldo, a distant connection of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a person of wide philosophic and general culture. The Swami had given her the Sanskrit name "Haridasi". and it was well chosen. She was truly a "Servant of the Lord" — her service was continuous and untiring. She cooked, edited, cleaned and took dictation, taught and managed, read proof and saw visitors.
When Swami Vivekananda came to New York, he encountered a strong racial prejudice, which created many hardships for him both in his public and in his private life. Among other things it was extremely difficult for him to secure a proper lodging. Landladies invariably assured him that they had no feeling themselves, but they were afraid they would lose their boarders or lodgers if they took an Asiatic into the house. This forced the Swami to accept inferior living quarters. Neither environment nor association was what he should have had. One day, after he had been overnight in one of these dingy lodgings, he said to Miss Waldo: "The food here seems so unclean, would it be possible for you to cook for me?" She went at once to the landlady and obtained permission to use the kitchen. Then from her own store she gathered together cooking utensils and groceries. These she carried with her on the following morning.
She lived at the far end of Brooklyn. The only means of transportation was a jogging horse-car, and it required two hours to reach the Swami's lodging at 38th Street in New York. Undaunted, every morning found her on her way at eight o'clock or earlier; and at nine or ten at night she was on her way home again. When there came a free day, the Journey was reversed. It was Swamiji who took the jogging horse-car, travelled the two hours and cooked the meals. He found genuine rest and relaxation in the freedom and quiet of Miss Waldo's simple home. The kitchen was on the top floor of the house, in front of it the dining-room full of sunshine and potted plants. As the Swami invented new dishes or tried experiments with Western provisions, he ran back and forth from one room to the other tike a child at play.
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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