Letter From C. Richard Wright: South India

Southern India

Excerpts From Letters of C. Richard Wright

Inner Culture, March 1936

Mysore, India, November 17, 1935

Would give anything if all of you were here right now to enjoy the grand and glorious scenery of Southern India. Brilliantly green rice fields, varied by tasseled sugarcane patches, nestle in protection at the foot of rocky hills—hills dotting the emerald panorama like pimples of black stone—and the play of colors is greatly enhanced by the sudden and dramatic disappearance of the sun as it seeks rest and solitude behind that solemn hill of solid black stone.

All in all, many rapturous moments have been spent in gazing, almost absent-mindedly, at the ever-changing canvas of God stretched across the firmament, for His Touch alone is able to produce colors that vibrate with that freshness of life. That youth of colors is lost when man tries to imitate with mere pigments, for God resorts to a more simple and effective kind of oils- oils that are neither oils, nor pigments, but are mere light rays. He tosses a splash of light here, and it reflects red. He waves the brush again and it blends gradually into orange and gold, then with a piercing thrust He stabs the clouds with a streak of purple that leaves a ringlet or fringe of red oozing out of the cut in the clouds, and so, on and on, He plays, night and morning alike, ever-changing, ever-new, and ever-fresh; no patterns, no duplicates, no colors just the same.

Man strives to imitate and emulate the works of a Supreme Artist, but little does he realize that he must first become that Supreme Artist before he can dabble in the palette of that Artist.

The beauty of the Indian change of day to night, and vice versa, is beyond compare elsewhere; often the sky looks as if God took all the colors in His Kit and gave them one mighty toss into the sky, caring not for the heterogeneous kaleidoscope created.

I must relate the grandeur and splendor of a twilight visit to the huge dam constructed just 12 miles outside of Mysore at Brindavan—Swamiji, his brother Bishnu, his nephews, Buddha and Biju, and a friend and true Brahmachari, namely, Ramachandra (a worker for Gandhi in those parts) and I, all actually crawled into a small open-air bus, and with a small boy as official cranker, or battery substitute, we started off over a nice, smooth dirt road, just as the sun was settling on the horizon and squashing like an over-ripe tomato.

Our journey led past the omnipresent rice fields in squares, through a lane of comforting banyan trees, in between a grove of towering cocoanut palms, with vegetation nearly as thick as in a jungle, and finally, as we approached the crest of a hill, we came face-to-face with a huge artificial lake, reflecting the stars and fringe of palms and other trees, all bordered by the row of electric lights on the brink of the dam– Krishnaraja Sagar—and down behind the dam our eyes met a dazzling spectacle of colored lights playing on geyser-like fountains, like so many fountains of colored ink spouting forth—gorgeously blue waterfalls, brilliantly red cataracts, green cataracts, yellow and red sprays, elephants spouting water, all a miniature of the Chicago World’s Fair-and yet, so outstanding because it is located in a land of poverty and destitution, all impoverished by greedy superiors. Truly, my heart pounded like a trip hammer, for I felt as if I was standing before those dancing fountains of water and light in front of the Firestone Building at the World’s Fair—and, as one climbed above these sprightly fountains, the definite colors gradually changed into a harmony of blended colors—lavender, orchid, ochre, maroon, azure, opal, cream, emerald, and the like.

As I try to paint this picture in words, I feel like slitting the canvas, for it is such a feeble, futile task. I could spend hours trying to dab around with words, but I shall leave such art to Swamiji, who is so enthusiastically received everywhere that I fear it will take more than my strength to bring him back to America, but don’t worry, if God says yes, we’ll both be back home ere many moons, and if He says no, well, why worry, that’s God’s business.

NOTICE—We regret that Swamiji’s article on the Gita has not yet arrived from India. The series will be continued as soon as the copy comes in.

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