Wednesday 27 June 2018

Sister Nivedita’s Battle for Indian Ideals in America - 8

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

One lady tried to drag me into attacking missionaries. I peremptorily refused. Another 'sniffed' and said, I had said nothing that she had not heard the missionaries say before. ... Then the President broke through hospitality to cross question me about polygamy ...Then one woman insisted that I should remonstrate with husbands and wives in India for not eating together and put 'a higher way' before them. ... After a few more remarks of this sort, the customary question about giving babies to crocodiles sounded thoroughly good natured ... one insisted on caste being, sympathetically explained ...I never was in a gathering so like a lunatic asylum. Caste did not interest them at all ...'monogamy!' ... 'Child widows!' ... everywhere would spring up a violent affirmation about the inferiority of wives, the preference of sons, the contempt for Woman—Woman—Woman. Oh how I recognized the steps that Swami had trodden before me!....I could not have imagined feeling so thoroughly angry with an audience ...I am to speak at the 20th Cent. Club on Thurday and at a private home Friday; [and] Go to Chicago saturday.(I300-2)"

However there was a change in mood in Ni-vedita's next letter to MacLeod; still in Detroit, she wrote to Miss MacLeod on 18 January 1900 about what she had learned from all this lecturing so far. It was just as Miss MacLeod had predicted: 'two years training in America would not be too much. ... On this journey I have seemed to find my feet, and to be led every step by Mother Herself. ... Shall a child not rejoice in speaking its father's message?' (1.303). In Detroit Nivedita  got moral support if not funds, from Christina Greenstidel, Mary Funki, and Mrs Bagley, all devotees of Vivekananda. Th ey each gave ten dollars. Nivedita remarked: 'And very rich people have not cared to give more than $5!' (1.304). Then Nivedita went back to Chicago, but by no means was Nivedita's suff ering over. She later wrote: 'Have just come in from another useless effort.' (1.306). Three days later on 26 January 1900 she wrote to MacLeod: 'I lunched with the Hales yesterday, and found myself just as glad to see Mary as though there had been no blow. ... she had not yet collected one dollar of all that were promised months ago! ... Somehow, this journey seems to have given me so much experience! I understand better about collecting money, and founding groups (1.307).

Nivedita then travelled to Kansas City and spoke at Indianapolis on Religious Life and Social Institutions in India, arranged by Mrs Sewall [May Wright Sewall], where she earned fi ft y dollars. Th is was more than she had been able to scrape together so far. At Mrs Sewall's Nivedita met a public school Principal who encouraged her aft er hearing her stories of history and geography, told in a school. Nivedita stopped briefly in Cleveland. In the meantime, Mrs Ole Bull was encouraging her to go to Boston and New York. Nivedita stayed at fi rst with a friend of Mrs Bull's, Mrs Edna Cheney, who took her to a Women's Suff rage Convention. Nivedita wrote: 'Th ey quoted last night some great leaders' saying that a new truth before it is accepted must meet with (1) ridicule (2) argument and (3) opposition. When these 3 are present, know that you are about to win. Oh dear—come on all 3—as hard as you can—I don't mind how much, if only you are not everlasting' (1.350).

Apparently, on May 31st, Nivedita shifted from Mrs Cheney's to the home of Mrs Ole Bull where she had ample opportunity to experience the three. Bipin Chandra Pal had also arrived as a guest at Mrs Bull's that night and when he went down to dinner he met Nivedita for the first time. He wrote in his memoirs that 'At very first sight of each other we would start to fi ght.' During the National Movement, Nivedita had contributed a series of articles to Pal's New India magazine, which she later published as Th e Web of Indian Life, and though they were friends, they constantly picked arguments when they met. That night it was over Brahmo women and Christian missionaries.

- Pravrajika Prabuddhaprana : Pravrajika Prabuddhaprana is a senior Sanyasini of the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission.

To be continued...........

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