He has always been a part of my life. As a child, I had noticed his framed picture on the wall of my parent&’s room. He looked calm, wise and completely at peace. Clothed in saffron-hued attire, he looked at the world and beyond with his serene gaze. He was Swami Vivekananda and despite being quite young, I accepted the fact that we were somehow linked to him in the daily routine of a humdrum life.

Growing up, through school and college, I matured in mind and spirit and somewhere deep in my consciousness, he remained a source of inspiration. Swami Vivekananda influenced my philosophy in life, made me realize “Work is worship” and that one must have complete faith in oneself to pursue any goal with success.

Then I came across his famed Chicago address. On 11 September 1893 Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk delivered his first speech in the Parliament of the World’s Religions? at Chicago. He addressed a western audience on Hinduism, and spoke about our philosophy. It was stirring to say the least.

We are all familiar with the lines: “Sisters and Brothers of America… It fills my heart with joy… I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both toleration and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.”

My father had several volumes by the revered one and through his influence I began to read up about Swami Vivekanada from diverse sources. And his picture accompanied us as my father being in government service, was transferred from city to city: Shillong, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Kanpur, Dehradun. Swami Vivekanada&’s portrait would always find pride of place in our home.

Some time back I had visited Chicago and taken a tour of the prestigious Art Institute where Swami Vivekananda had made the unforgettable speech at the Parliament of Religions in 1893.

I shall never forget the moment when I entered the hall and saw the gleaming wide staircase leading up to the galleries. Each of the steps had the words of Swamiji&’s address lit up in different colours, sentence after sentence. The entire speech was there in illuminated colours, every word a separate vibrant hue! The words flowed into my mind simultaneously as I ascended the stairs. “Sisters and Brothers of America… It fills my heart with joy…”

I felt overcome by a strange sensation. Were his serene eyes watching?