Swami Vivekananda&Bhaskara Sethupathi.
The street looked deserted at 1 pm in the afternoon.The summer sun was not only severe and the intermittant shadow provided a few shades here and there.I was 10 yrs when I first crossed that street.There were two huge walls on either side and there was no fear in me,tho’ many said that was a Street where Ghosts haunt even in the afternoons!The silence was indeed killing but I walked further and saw a few stray leaves on the roadside.I saw a huge entarance and a broken door with thornfence to prevent unwanted people to enter.I took courage and passed thro the fence to find a truly breathtaking view-with all trees and flowers by the side of a Tank full of water.I heard little birds chirping and the butterflies were so beautiful.
A few more steps and I saw a nice garden with neatly laid down fountains.There was building too.The entrance,apparently,the backside of the building was so huge and locked.There were no human souls tho’ it was only 1 in the after noon.I stepped into the corridors and saw beautiful red tiles on the flooring with ceilings of British Style.The wood work must be atleast 150 years old indeed.I went around calling “Sir,Sir”
I heard my echo back as the Tank bend is touching the side steps of the building and water was easily reachable from this building.aparently one can walk down to the Tank for fetching water.I went around the building and came across a front entrance with a beautifully carved door.All around in whiteness and calmness and the beauty of that place removed whatever little fear I must have had when I came to that street.
A portico of elegance that a Rolls Royce was always parked(i imagined) and then I came out thro the Rear Entrance where a white Arch stood the test of time.There when I came out I saw beautifully written words “VIVEKANANDA HOUSE”
I saw a few jamuns on the floor.I took a few and what refreshing sweetness I have never ever experienced in my life.I picked and picked(from the floor) to my heart’s content and ran from Vivekananda House to the neighbouring building,a few yards away,where I saw many of my known friends,as it was indeed Rajah’s High School,where my dad was the Haedmaster.
Afraid that one of the peons may inform my strict disciplinarian father that Suri was around this afternnon picking Jamuns in VIvekaknada House,I hid them and ran away to my house back thro the same deserted street.
“Where did you go Yesterday after noon,especially in the hot Sun?” -my dad
“I wanted to have an experience of thrill.So I went to that street which leads to the Vivekananda House and explored.”
“What did you see there?”
“I saw beautiful trees,flowers,water front and the place was extremly calm indeed!”
“Did you read what is written in the entrance?”
“No.in the building entrance where you enter the building-not the arch?”
“I didnt notice anything?”
“Now run and read it and come back to me with whats written”
Being summer vacation again the street was deserted.I ran as I always was afraid of Father’s command.When he beats he really beats hard,tho it was reserved only for certain extremely incorrigible occasions.
I told him it is written something in English which I dont understand much.”Try to copy in a paper and come back.” I ran again.I copied all the As,Bs.Cs and showed it to him.Try to read:
“Swami VIvekaknada stayed in this Building after his return from Chicago.”
“What does it mean,pappa?”
“You dont know who Swami VIvekananda is.”
“He must be a Swami!”
“Go to our School Library and ask Kayambu(he was the attender and right hand man for many things for my father,whose life began at the school and ended at the school!) to give you a book on Swami VIvekananda.”I ran again.Kayambu treated,especially his Master’s son ,always with contempt as his word on anything got a better weight with my father than his own son, as he was very sincere.
I remember my brother telling me, oneday that he was caught playing in the Trees and was taken to the Headmaster(my father)who asked him to stand in public view of all students in front of his room for 2 hrs.Those days the punishment system was to stand in front of the H.M’s room!
Kayambu asked me to come after two hrs as he is busy.I again ran to the school after 2 hrs.He had searched and kept a nice book on Swami Vivekakanda in Tamil.
I took that to my father.”You are supposed to read it and come to me.”
I read a few pages and my mind was always in playfields,the boys out on the street.
He asked me next day “Did you finish the book?”
“NO.a few pages.”
“At this rate you will take 100 yrs to finish this book.Listen to me.”
He narrated about Swami VIvekananda.
He was financed by Bhaskara Sethupathi to go to Chicago Conference on world Religions.He landed in the month of July and unfortunately the conference got postponed to September.Swami Vivekananda didnt have enough money to stay further and was sleeping on a road side when a good Samaritan Lady took pity and took him to her house.Provided food,shelter.She was amazed what a Genius this man was.She recommended Swamiji, thro her known friends for the conference and with many obstacles,atlast Swamiji got a chance to speak after the conference hrs on 9/11!Thats how when He addressed the conference delegates at Chicago :”BROTHERS & SISTERS”,He became World Famous!The date was indeed 9/11!!
My father said ,as a mark of respect for the Greatness shown by Bhaskara Sethupathi,Swami landed back in India at Mandapam,near Ramnad and He was received by Bhaskara Sethupathi himself.He stayed in this very Building and Bhaskara Sethupathi had kept this unique place as a Treasure(till he died!).
For my playful mind all this story telling did not make any mark and my father was thinking that I was highly impressed.He also narrated about the Greatness of Bhaskara Sethupathi which recently when I reread that book “Lectures from Colombo to Amora” I recalled that incident.
“There was such a huge crowd in Mandapam and Bhaskara Sethupathi himself was present to Recieve this Great Indian,who had made a mark of our culture in Chicago.There was a specially decorated Chariot with 6 horses to draw him thro the streets and thousands were waiting for the ship to arrive from Colombo.When that moment arrived,Swamiji came out of the Ship and Bhaskara Sethupathi Prostrated before Him to the astonishment of the Crowd,as Bhaskara is the King of that Place!When Swamiji got into that Chariot,sudeenly this thing happened.Bhaskara Sethupathi in a moment of Bliss,removed all the horses and started pulling the Chariot himself to the repeated cries of “NO NO” from Swamiji-
well I when read this again now,I felt tears in my eyes.Such Great people have passed thro this town.Such Great people like Bhaskara Sethupathi have lived and created history.Such a great man like my father tried his level best to imbibe some good habits when I was 10 yrs Old.
If I haven’t utilised them properly what could those Great people do?It is a Tragedy of life that I have never read Swami VIvekananda till I was 55yrs.
Man’s pursuits for materialistic goals have never rewarded him I feel.Great people’s lives are indeed a True Gospel for a disciplined focussed living.
Today the same Building is in such a pathetic condition that the subsequent Sethupathis didnot even know the Greatness of neither Swami VIvekananda nor Bhaskra Sethupathi.In a few yrs time that place may boast of a multi story residential complex.Will any one,some one out there help this Monument to be preserved for Posterity,which cannot be measured its worth in weight of Pure Gold!