To Sister Christine
THE MATH, BELUR,
DIST. HOWRAH, BENGAL,
2nd September 1901.
MY DEAR CHRISTINE,
I have been looking at one of your old photos — the only one you sent four or five years ago; and then I remember how changed and reduced you looked last summer; and it came to me that you must be awfully thin now, as it seems very hard for you to get rid of anxieties. This is simply foolish. Things will, of course, take their shape. We only make ourselves miserable by moping. It is very hard to manipulate one’s philosophy to contribute to one’s daily need. So it is with you, as with me. But it is easiest to take the teacher’s chair and read a lecture. And that has been my life’s business!! Indeed, that is the reason why there are more disciples up to the mark than teachers. The upshot of all this is that you must create a huge appetite, then gorge, then sleep and grow fat, fat, fat. Plump is the English word, is it not?
As for me, I am very happy. Of course, Bengal brings the asthma now and then, but it is getting tame, and the terrible things — Bright’s disease and diabetes — have disappeared altogether. Life in any dry climate will stop the asthma completely, I am sure. I get reduced, of course, during a fit, but then it takes me no time to lay on a few layers of fat. I have a lot of cows, goats, a few sheep, dogs, geese, ducks, one tame gazelle, and very soon I am going to have some milk buffaloes. These are not your American bison, but huge things — hairless, half-aquatic in habits, and [that] give an enormous quantity of very rich milk.
Within the last few months, I got two fits [of asthma] by going to two of the dampest hill stations in Bengal — Shillong and Darjeeling. I am not going to try the Bengalee mountains any more.
Mrs. Bull and Nivedita are in Norway. I don’t know when they [will] come over to India. Miss MacLeod is in Japan. I have not heard from her [for] a long while. They all are expected here in November, and will have a “hot time in this old town”1 etc. I pray you can come, and the Mother will open the door for it. I cannot but say my prayers mostly have been heard, up to date.
Well now, Christina, send me one of your latest photos next mail, will you? I want to see how much of fat you have accumulated in one year.
Anyhow, I will have to go to America with Mrs. Bull, I am sure. [Excision]2 By the by, excusez-moi,3 our Calcutta is never so hot as your Detroit or New York, with its added advantage — we are not required by our society to wear many things. The old Greeks used to think that wearing too many clothes and [feeling] shame to show any part of the body a peculiarity of barbarians! So the Hindus think, down to the present day. We are the most scantily clothed people in the whole world. Bless the Lord! How one would live otherwise in our climate!
3rd September —
I left the letter unfinished last night. The foreign English mail starts day after tomorrow. So begin again. The moon is not up yet, but there is a sunless glow upon the river. Our mighty Ganges (She is indeed mighty now, during the rains) is splashing against the walls of the house. Numerous tiny boats are flitting up and down in the dark; they have come to fish for our shads, which come up the river this season.
How I wish you were here to taste our shads — one of the most delicate fish in the world. It is raining outside — pouring. But the moment this downpour ceases, I rain through every pore — it is so hot yet. My whole body is covered by big patches of prickly heat. Thank goodness there are no ladies about! If I had to cover myself in this state of things, I surely would go crazy.
I have also my theme, but I am not despondent. I am sure very soon to pan it out into a beautiful ecstasy [excision]. I am half crazy by nature; then my overtaxed nerves make me outrageous now and then. As a result I don’t find anybody who would patiently bear with me! I am trying my best to make myself gentle as a lamb. I hope I shall succeed in some birth. You are so gentle. Sometimes I did frighten you very much, did I not, Christina? I wish I were as gentle as you are. Mother knows which is best.
I would not take any supper tonight, as I ate rather heartily of the aforesaid shad! Then I have to think, think, think on my theme; and some subjects I think best in bed because the whole is made clear to me in dream. Therefore, I am going to bed, and gute Nacht, bon soir,4 etc., etc. No, no, it is now about 10 a.m. in Detroit. Therefore, a very happy day to you. May all good realities reach you today while I am expecting dreams.
Ever yours with love and blessings,
- ^The quotation is from a song entitled “Camptown Races” by the American composer Stephen Foster.
- ^The paper of the original letter is so old and brittle that some portions have disintegrated.
- ^A French expression which means “excuse me”.
- ^German and French expressions which mean “good night” and “good evening” respectively.