Now the very dust of India has become holy to me !
The Swami’s appearance at the Parliament of Religions had without question made him irreversibly famous throughout the world.
Never again was he to wander alone, unknown through his beloved country. His world mission in its public aspect had begun.
But in the midst of all the immediate acclaim and popularity that his appearance at the Parliament had brought him, he had no thought for himself; his heart continued to bleed for India. Personally he had no more wants.
The mansions of some of the wealthiest of Chicago society were open to him, and he was received as an honoured guest. On the very day of his triumph, he was invited by a man of great wealth and distinction to his home in one of the most fashionable parts of the city. Here he was entertained royally; a princely room fitted with a luxury beyond anything he could have conceived was assigned to him. But instead of feeling happy in this splendid environment, he was miserable. Name and fame and the approval of thousands had in no way affected him; though sumptuously cared for, he was the same sannyasi as of old, thinking of India’s poor. As he retired the first night and lay upon his bed, the terrible contrast between poverty-stricken India and opulent America oppressed him. He could not sleep for pondering over India’s plight. The bed of down seemed to be a bed of thorns. The pillow was wet with his tears. He went to the window and gazed out into the darkness until he was well-nigh faint with sorrow. At length, overcome with emotion, he fell to the floor, crying out, “O Mother, what do I care for name and fame when my motherland remains sunk in utmost poverty! To what a sad pass have we poor Indians come when millions of us die for want of a handful of rice, and here they spend millions of rupees upon their personal comforts! Who will raise the masses in India! Who will give them bread? Show me, O Mother, how I can help them.”
Before he left London, one of his British friends put this question to him: `Swami, how do you like now your motherland after four years’ experience of the luxurious, glorious, powerful West?’ Swamiji said: `India I loved before I came away. Now the very dust of India has become holy to me, the very air is now to me holy; it is now the holy land, the place of pilgrimage, the Tirtha!’