Letters From Richard Wright: Arrival in India

Inner Culture, November 1935

Excerpts from a letter written by Richard Wright who accompanied Yogananda to India

Bombay, August 25, 1935.

Dear Friends:

Lo and behold! India at last! The magic pattern of entrancing India is gradually taking form before our very eyes even in “anglicized” Bombay. Incidentally, this hotel pictured above is the largest hotel and one of the finest buildings in Bombay, overlooking the harbor and very near the famous royalty arch, “The Gateway to India.” Hotel has huge, arcaded halls with “inside verandah-like” halls.

In view of our haste and “on-the-go” anxiety, all I’ve been able to observe of a people, their customs, their cities has been rather “all-surface,” so take my words with salt and forgiveness. I’ll try to do better in India. Although our usual haste is beginning to be necessary, for we leave this afternoon for Calcutta, via Mail Train, Swamiji’s impatience and intense enthusiasm cancelling the motor tour across India, but we shall motor back via Kashmiri, etc. Stopping off at Wardha to meet Gandhiji. Imagine, Gandhi! I’m practically wordless! Then Calcutta and Swamiji’s family!

Just short sentences –”Rajputana” pulled into Bombay’s huge harbor on Aug. 22 at 2 P.M.-Swamiji welcomed by garlands and bouquets of flowers by Dr. Nawie, friends, and the various persons—(his photo appeared in several papers with stories of organization, etc.) Everywhere we go, Swamiji is welcomed and greeted in great awe and respect and admiration-He cuts quite a figure in his long, flowing hair, orange robe, orange sox, orange sandals and orange cane—looked divine with wreaths of richly fragrant flowers of every hue –great reception filled us with smiles and India –consciousness.

Customs are slow and pecky as English—but why not?—ie, Custom officials—sightseeing “tantalizers” of India already at work with port cards, stamps, locks, etc.—snake-charmers with cobra, mongoose, and flute—very eery and strange and fascinating –(more of this later)—Gaping and sneering at “tea-sipping” customs officials, while delaying me 3 hours first day and 2 hours 2nd day—a genuine Indian dinner as guests of Dr. Nawie-large metal plates the size of a Chinese gong, 4 or 5 small metal cups, no accessories, just washed fingers, and an endless parade of courses—our first dinner consists of 13 separate distinct preparations—each course being a handful as there are so many—like sitting down to a whole dinner of samples, but nevertheless, filling and satisfying—courses consisting of rice, condiments of rare delicacy and exquisitely flavored vegetables with the most delicate spice I’ve tasted-and a whole lot of things impossible for me to describe at this early date-and such sweetmeats! Oo la la! —hungry?—just picture us sitting in a small, high-ceiling room, around small round tables, dipping our fingers in these delicacies—that’s living!-How my heart aches for you all as I see myself lost in rapture over these thrills of India,

In my other letters, shall tell you about Bombay, and its museum buildings, street cars, natives, streets, bazaars, markets, poor natives sleeping on the streets at night with just a thin shawl for a mat-tress, and so on, and on.

News item from Calcutta Paper
“The Anvrita Bazar Patrika.”
Visit to Ranchi

Ranchi, Sept. 11.
Swami Yogananda, founder of the International Self-Realization Fellowship with headquarters at Los Angeles, accompanied by an American disciple arrived here by car today after an absence of 15 years. He is staying in the Brahmacharya Vidalaya where once he was the principal. He was given a rousing ovation by the professors and students of the Vidalaya. He will stay here for a week. He will address a public meeting tomorrow. (United Press.)

 

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