Monday 12 March 2018

Sister Nivedita: The Dedicated - Who gave her all to India – 36

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

Nivedita as Lokmata – serving the people - 1

It was March 1899. Nivedita had come to see Swamiji. While talking to her, Swamiji said, 'We are yet to know the real nature of man. When the real manhood shall emerge… then everybody will be free to do great work. My mission is not Ramakrishna's nor Vedanta's nor anything, but simply to bring manhood to my people.' Nivedita said, 'I will help you, Swami.' Swamiji replied, 'I know it.' We also know that she kept her promise. In fact, she dedicated her life for the purpose and kept her word to the last day of her life.

While living at Bosepara Lane, Nivedita had very cordial relationship with her neighbours. She always stood by their side in their hours of happiness and sorrow. The neighbours also accepted her as their own, convinced of her sincere love for them. She too duly accepted and respected the social customs, including those of touching, etc. One night she was about to take her dinner. Suddenly she heard the sound of wailing from a nearby mud-house. Leaving her dinner, she rushed to the spot. Before her eyes the small child of the house died. Nivedita felt as if one of her dear relations had died. The child's mother was piteously weeping. Nivedita took her head on her lap and sat silently. After a long while, the child's mother stopped crying. She asked feebly, 'Where has my child gone?' Nivedita said, 'Hush, Mother. She is now with the Mother Kali'. Perhaps, the bereaved mother got a little bit of consolation. She heaved a long sigh but did not cry any more. Nivedita had become very much one of them.

In 1899, the plague broke out in Calcutta for the second time. Swamiji entrusted the entire responsibility of fighting the disease to Nivedita. The Ramakrishna Mission formed a Committee of which Nivedita became the Secretary, and Swami Sadananda its Chief Executive. The services rendered by both Nivedita and Swami Sadananda in fighting the plague became memorable in the history of Calcutta. Swami Sadananda moved around with a group of boys and took upon himself the responsibility of keeping clean the localities, including the slums of Baghbazar and Shyambazar.

Endowed with some superhuman power as it were, Nivedita coordinated and supervised the entire range of activities. She inserted appeals for help in the English newspapers. At the auditorium of the 'Classic Theatre', she, along with Swamiji, gave lectures on 'Plague and the Duty of the Students.' Hearing their lectures, ten students immediately joined the work of plague-service. On every Sunday evening, they would gather near Nivedita to report their activities, and leave after taking further instructions. People were astonished to observe her leadership and her organizing capacity during those days. She would personally inspect every bit of work and followed it up if necessary. Moving around each and every locality she used to distribute the printed handbills containing the preventive measures on how to fight the plague.

One day she observed that a pile of rubbish was heaped in a locality at Baghbazar. Whereas none appeared to be concerned about it, Nivedita personally arranged to secure a broomstick and basket and started to clean the rubbish. Seeing her, the young men of the locality felt ashamed and took away the broomstick from her hand and began to clean the rubbish and the pathway.

Nivedita fought an impeccable war. She went through the stricken localities, making inquiries, prepared lists of vacant beds; opened a provisional dispensary in a wooden shed; organized groups of volunteer workers under the direction of Swami Sadananda. Her campaign was pursued so vigorously that the government Health officer with his inspectors came to see her. He expected to be received by a committee, but was met instead by one harassed woman sitting at a desk covered with papers, while little Hindu children played all around her.

To be continued...

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