Monday, July 30, 2007

#67,Why should they take me to a low hotel?

Swami Vivekananda wrote to Alasinga, his chief disciple at Chennai, from USA, On 1st July 1895. In his letter, Swamiji refers to a misstatement in a pamphlet, apparently that he was going to big hotels in USA.

"...There is one misstatement in that pamphlet. I never went to a big hotel in this country, and very few times to any other. At Baltimore, the small hotels, being ignorant, would not take in a black man, thinking him a negro. So my host, Dr. Vrooman, had to take me to a larger one, because they knew the difference between a negro and a foreigner..."

We can understand Swamiji's position in an alien country. If a small hotel refused him, there was no alternative. He had to go to a bigger hotel as per his host's directions. But his hosts and he felt that his "Aryan" background was not recognised by the hotel owners. The hoteliers misunderstood his brown color to be black, rather than trying to enquire about his nationality and race. Aryans have a German/North European origin and hence Vivekananda considered that being an Aryan, he was entitled not to be treated like blacks. OK, in that particular situation, he and his hosts might not have been left with no choice except to argue an Aryan nationality/raciality.

On Oct. 27, 1894, Swamiji wrote from Washington D.C. to Mrs. Ole Bull:

"... You need not be sorry on account of the ill-treatment I received at the hands of a low class hotel-keeper at Baltimore. It was the fault of the Vrooman brothers. Why should they take me to a low hotel? ..."

It is very clear that Swamiji did not expect to be taken to low hotels.

*Were there no small hotels which cater to non-whites?
*Where were the poor whites staying?
*Where were the blacks, coloreds and Asians of 1890s staying, when they visited American cities? Were they sleeping on roads or under bridges?

Swamiji stayed in USA for four years during his first visit from 1894 to 1897. He has not written anywhere about hotels reserved only for blacks or his staying in small hotels/inns intended for blacks and the poor American whites. Had he ever stayed at least a few days in a hotel for blacks, he would have had a first hand experience of the lives of the poor-whites and non-whites.

He wrote to his brother disciples from US in 1894:

"...The hotels of this country beggar description. For instance there is a hotel in New York where a room can be hired for up to Rs. 5,000 a day, excluding boarding charges. Not even in Europe is there a country like this in point of luxury. It is indeed the richest country in the world, where money is drained off like water. I seldom live in hotels, but am mostly the guest of big people here. ... "

*Great that he stayed with big people; ok.
*Did he ever stay with blacks and the poor whites?
*Did he ever stay with blacks, even by accident?
*Did he ever stay with Non-Resident Indians/Asians?

Swamiji wrote to Mr. E.T. Sturdy from New York, in Nov. 1899:

"... For the last few months I have been hearing so much of the luxuries I was given to enjoy by the people of the West — luxuries which the hypocrite myself has been enjoying, although preaching renunciation all the while: luxuries, the enjoyment of which has been the great stumbling-block in my way, in England at least. I nearly hypnotised myself into the belief that there has at least been a little oasis in the dreary desert of my life, a little spot of light in one whole life of misery and gloom; one moment of relaxation in a life of hard work and harder curses — even that oasis, that spot, that moment was only one of sense-enjoyment!! ..."

*Did Swamiji go to US and UK in search of Oasises?
*Where was his whole life of misery and gloom? Ramakrishna arranged with a rich devotee to pay Narendra a Rupee every day (large amount in those days), so that the young Narendra would be worry free.
*He was lunching for Sethjis, Rules and Diwanjis calling himself Paramahamsa, though there may be some interruptions during jouneys.
*Even in Tiruvanantapuram, he had searched for and got the Company of Manmathnath Bhattacharya, to have fish and flesh which was not available from his hosts.

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