For me, it has been, and is continuing to be an excellent experience with the devotees of South Africa. What deep devotion they all have, not only for our Master but to all of His children, both monastics and house-holders alike!
My recent tour started on the 10th January with Estcourt hosting their 145th Swami Vivekananda Birth Anniversary Celebrations. Kimi of Durban Central branch took me by his car to Estcourt. It was held in a public Hindu Temple where the hall was almost full. The officials Naren and Rajesh did not give any specific topic, but at the same time expected me to speak for about an hour! So I made Swami Vivekananda as the topic and spoke about Him everywhere, as He supplied the ideas.
The same night I reached Ladysmith. I was so happy and surprised to see more than 800 people gathered in the Civic Hall of Ladysmith of whom, a number of Christians and Muslims were also present, because the Ladysmith branch organised the distribution of hampers to 500 poor families. every hamper consisted of good quantity of edible items all sponsored by different citizens of Ladysmith. This branch children gave a beautiful dance performance also. And after the function all the 800 people were given supper. Once the supper was over the branch devotees adults and children assembled for a friendly chat with me at Kirti’s home. This was an informal get-together where I could come to know them.
The following day I proceeded to Newcastle. This is the birth place of late Swami Nischalanandaji who was the Founder of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa in 1942. The house where he was born is no more there as the venue has come under flood area where two apple trees stand as mute witness to one of the dynamic sons of South Africa. This centre had scheduled two programmes, one on the 12th – that was Swamiji’s English birthday – and another for the Youth on the 13th. Both the programmes had good attendance.
On the night of the 13th, I was taken to Dundee. The function was held in our own shrine which is indeed beautiful where, I spoke for an hour. The next morning, the Mayoress visited Satish’s home to see me and we had pleasant exchanges. She was amazed and happy to see the Hindu Ramakrishna community doing welfare activity to black sisters and brothers who lived in the area. She also accompanied us and witnessed our devotees handing out the hampers. Some reference you can see here.
At noon I went to Glencoe, where for the first time, I had an opportunity to sit and talk with the devotees at Rishi’s home. It was a pleasant experience as I found that in this small town, our children are really blessed to have multiple talents. I cannot forget the wonderful oratory of Nibha, a 10 year old child who spoke on Swamiji so inspiring!
On the same night, that is the 14th, I went back to Ladysmith, where a devoted group of adults and children awaited my return. They had organised a ‘Thanksgiving Satsang’ – a Satsang where all the volunteers would be thanked by the officials. But, instead the Volunteers thanked our Master Sri Ramakrishna for giving them the opportunity to serve the poor. In this prevalent spiritual atmosphere, I was transported to a different world where Swamiji; as it were took me by the hand and guided me in speaking about him. Again on that night a group of devotees with their children met me at kirti’s home and our chat went on crossing midnight!
The next day I went to Pietermaritzburg via Midmar dam. I have crossed this dam several times but never had any chance to see it near. A beautiful place where to enter you have to shell out 17 Rands per person. We were 4 and the Entry Gate lady allowed us to go without any charge when she was told that a visitor-guest from India was there! At PMB branch we had a solemn function. Youth members sang two inspiring songs on Swamiji. The devotees here are indeed very cordial and after lunch at Sunil’s home, I returned to Durban on 16th late evening by Sunil’s car. Sunil takes pleasure in driving me to and fro always.
In all the functions, it was such a joy to see the happy and smiling faces of the devotees. The enthusiasm displayed in preparing and participating for their respective functions was indeed a heart warming experience for me. Throughout my tour I felt the continuous presence of Swami Vivekananda.