Abnish Singh Chauhan. Swami Vivekananda: Select Speeches. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2004. Edition Second: 2012. Pp. /- Price: Rs. 80/-. ISBN: 978-81-7977-466-3.
Reviewed by Satish Kumar
Dr Singh, a celebrated bilingual poet in Hindi and English, critic, writer and commentator, is a well-known name in literary circles. He has rendered noticeable contribution to Vivekananda literature by editing his speeches, which have been a source of inspiration to humanity around the globe. Singh has edited the Swami’s select speeches with a view to acquainting the youth with the timeless message of spiritual and moral sublimation of humanity. The book is dedicated to Dr Singh’s parents who gave him the first lesson in spirituality and ancient Indian culture.
The book under review consists of three parts– Introduction, Select Speeches and Questions-Answers. In the first chapter of Introduction, which consists of 5 chapters, Singh details Swami’s eventful life from birth in famous Dutta family in Calcutta, influence of talented parents endowed with ‘exceptionable intelligence and compassion for the unfortunate, early education and illumination of yogic consciousness, his prodigious memory, higher education in Presidency College, Kolkata, his razor sharp intellectual brilliance and unquenchable inquisitiveness, influence of Brahmo-Samaj, Prof Hastie’s reference to Sri Ramkrishan Paramhans while teaching Wordsworth’s Excursion and his state of ecstasy, financial hardships after his father’s death, his resolve to remove sufferings of his countrymen, his close association with Paramhans, his leadership of the young disciples of the Master, his journey through the whole of India, his historic participation in the Congress of Religions in Chicago in 1893, return to India, his illness and death. Second chapter is a picture perfect portrayal of the description of Swami’s magnetic and fascinating personality, spiritual power and his eternal message. He was a power house of spirituality and Vedic wisdom. Chapters third and fourth sum up Vivekananda’s contribution as a cultural ambassador of Bharat in the world and his ardent patriotism. Fifth chapter highlights his immaculate command over language and his stylistic and oratorical excellence. This is an immensely researched part of the book and evinces Singh’s erudition and understanding of the life and attainments of Swami. He has amply quoted from diverse sources– works of Sister Nivedita, RomainRolland, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Amalendu Bose, K.R.S. Iyengar, Harriet Monroe and above all the works of Swamiji. What strikes me most is the simplicity, lucidity, clarity of Singh’s style which is conspicuous for economy, precision and command over diction. For example: ‘He realized that a renaissance was coming and India should be equipped to welcome it. All was not rosy when he started on his mission. By his personal magnetism, sweet reasonable and disarming logic he won over his opponents so far as to obtain a peaceful hearing. His gentle persuasive speech led his audience into sympathetic understanding.”
In the Second Part of the book Singh has meticulously selected some of Swamiji’s speeches which are especially useful to Indian young people who have to do the onerous task of nation building. These speeches are: Six speeches which Vivekananda delivered at Parliament of Religions, How India Can Win the World, The Future of India, Work And Its Secret, The Importance of Psychology, and Nature and Man. These speeches are of especial significance in the present context of India when the Govt of Indian has been exhorting the youth of the country to contribute their mite to the reconstruction of the nation and to establish her on the pedestal of Vishava Guru in order to realise the dream of Swami Vivekananda.
The third part Questions-Answers has been designed to help the students and readers of Vivekananda literature.
Prof Satish Kumar has authored a number of books including Edgar Allen Poe: Style and Structure of His Short Stories, Literary Explorations, and his four volumes on Indian Writing in English, namely, A Survey of Indian English Prose, A Survey of Indian English Poetry, A Survey of Indian English Drama and A Survey of Indian English Novel. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.