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September 4, 1998  HOME | NEWS | SPECIALS
'Mother has gone and yet Mother has not gone'
Sisters in chapel Between the small Hot 'n' Cold Fast Food Corner and the AIC Distributors on Calcutta's A J C Bose Road is a three storied building where Mother Teresa lives. Mother Teresa M.C -- In reads the old styled nameplate down the narrow lane, off the busy main road.

Inside, novices hurriedly go about their morning chores. Iron buckets and brooms, saris tucked above their ankles as they sweep the old courtyard floor. Others carry water inside, past handmade curtains. One drops her broom, rushes to fetch water for a waiting fruit vendor and returns to her work patch. Some, through with their washing, sit on the chapel floor, deep in prayer.

Just a few paces from them lies Mother Teresa's quiet tomb.

Mother's statue "We like to sit beside Mother. There is a statue of her in the chapel upstairs," says Sister Christi of the almost life-like statue. Sent by a Spanish wellwisher, it was relegated to one of the back rooms by Mother Teresa at the spartan Mother House -- the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity -- until she passed away on September 5 last year. The nuns retrieved it and placed it over a cushion in the chapel, exactly where Mother sat during prayers.

"No, Mother never used a cushion, she always sat directly on the floor," explains Sister Christi, a Japanese nun who has spent eight years in the order. "Till just before she died, Mother could kneel for a long time in prayer," adds a co-worker, "when we, so many years younger found it so difficult."

A year after she passed into the ages, Mother Teresa continues to reside at Mother House. She looks through the calendar in the parlour. Watches over her tomb from a sand grained painting. Squats with other sisters on the floor during prayers. Her successor, Sister Nirmala still gives Mother's business card to visitors. And on her 88th birth anniversary on August 26, schoolchildren queued up outside Mother House with banners saying: We love you Mother Teresa. Happy Birthday to you.

"Mother has gone and yet Mother has not gone. She is with us always. We feel her guidance and love constantly," says Sister Nirmala. Even Mother's room -- out of bounds for visitors -- is known to be kept exactly the way she left it.

Mother's tomb People associated with the congregation say things have remained much the same as they were in Mother Teresa's time. Barring, perhaps, the room which houses her tomb. Formerly used by novices, it now has direct access for visitors who want to pay homage at the tomb.

"Every Sunday, a Hindu man comes with lots of flowers and together with some sisters decorates the tomb," says Sister Melrose who returned from Africa earlier this year. But on her 88th birth anniversary, flowers come from all over. Cards, bouquets, candles and floral designs cover every inch of the grave. Only the stark tombstone is kept clear of any floral encroachments. Mother M Teresa. 26.8.1910 - 5.9.1997. Our dearly beloved Mother, Foundress of MOC.

On the rainwashed courtyard, children from the neighbouring Shishu Bhavan sing and dance for Mother's birthday. "I reached here today, and what a nice day it is," says Polish-born Sister Vera Cruz. A day for a special lunch. A day of wearing that third sari -- the nuns are given only three saris for their use -- reserved for special occasions. It is a day of celebration at Mother House.

'Now is the time for the Missionaries of Charity to concentrate on stability and consolidation'