Monday, 16 July 2018

Breakfast with the Sisters: A Meeting of Great Minds -13

When we look through Nivedita's letters we find that Christine and Nivedita had a very close relationship. In her letters, Nivedita sometimes just referred to Christine as 'my sister', knowing that the reader of the letter would know who she meant. As Christine had no money of her own to maintain herself in India, Nivedita took on the responsibility of getting money for her. And she did it with great earnestness. In a letter to Josephine MacLeod, dated 13 Nov 1908, Nivedita wrote: 'I do pray that Swami means me to get money for Christine! I am no good to Him—but she is!'

But just as Nivedita was devoted to Christine, Christine was also devoted to Nivedita. In 1905, after Nivedita had been seriously ill for several weeks, she wrote to Josephine MacLeod: 'She [Christine] was a loyal American to the finger-tips, I can tell you. It was like the motherhen fighting for her brood. But I was so nervous about her, all the time, for she is very delicate you know, and yet she would fan me, standing, for hours at a time and—in the beginning—remain up night and day, till I felt sure she would be ill! Only I had to accept—being past the stage of lifting a finger'.

Yet for many years there has been current the story of the estrangement between Nivedita and Christine at the end of Nivedita's life.  After going through Nivedita's letters, however, I had to wonder: Is this true? Or has fiction been passed off as fact? It is true that Nivedita was difficult to live with, and she herself had to admit it. In a letter to Josephine MacLeod, she wrote: '[Dr. Bose] told me very sweetly the other day that I could not have accepted from Christine, what she has accepted from me'. Moreover, when money became tight, the Sisters had to downsize to one house instead of two. This meant 'crowding', and, as Nivedita wrote, '[Christine] wants freedom and scope—and I want quiet'. Nivedita then thought of renting some rooms outside for some personal space.

From : Pravrajika Shuddhatmaprana :  Pravrajika Shuddhatmaprana is a senior Sanyasini of the Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission...to be continued