The Missionaries of Charity are unaffected by the recent comments of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat questioning Mother Teresa's motives. Arindam Majumder reports
Poverty is a horrible situation to be in. As an economist wrote, “The pain of sleeping in a hungry stomach cannot be compared with anything else.”
In third world countries, poverty is also a vehicle for people to reach their goal of electoral victory or religious supremacy. The destitute are easy fodder for that.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa had asserted her unflinching trust in Christianity and that probably has given Mohan Bhagwat, the self-proclaimed guardian of the Hindus, an opportunity to train his guns on her. Bhagwat’s Monday statement that Mother Teresa’s deeds were not without motive has created ripples across the world, from the Vatican to Lutyen’s Delhi. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that Bhagwat heads is no stranger in that aspect. Reports of religious conversions from the hinterlands have become so regular that phrases like ‘Ghar Wapsi’ have entered the colloquial vocabulary of the nation.
The Missionaries of Charity, which Mother Teresa founded, though vehemently denies such claims. “Mother as a person or the Missionaries of Charity as an organisation never distinguished on the basis of religion,” says MC spokesperson Sunita Kumar, who worked with Mother Teresa for close to three decades. “We used to pray with Mother inside the chapel, she used to tell us not to kneel and pray according to our own faith, today one can move across our homes and find people from all religion there,” she recalls.
Sunita though is not interested in any damage control. “I don’t believe there is a damage, either he is misinformed or playing his cards like a true politician,” says the Sikh, who is still a regular to the gurdwara.
Mohan Bhagwat’s ego might get a dampener but a visit to the Kolkata residence where Mother Teresa spent her life makes it evident that his comments are a non-issue here.
Mother House, which houses the tomb of Mother Teressa, is a solemn place where people from all fraternities kneel: some out of faith, some probably out of desperation.
“We don’t want to comment on such issues, we will quietly walk the path of the Mother,” said a nun in her accented English. For years, many from the affluent West have settled in the dusty Eastern metropolis with the singular objective of, as a volunteer put it, “being closer to God”.
“Jesus suffered yet forgave his tormentors,” says Andrew, who only gave his first name, who has been volunteering for the organisation for a year now.
The streets outside Mother House have been home to Ismail Sheikh for over 30 years now. “ I have received woolens from Mother’s hand and took her blessings several times, it acted as a source of strength,” claims the 60-year-old man, an asthma patient. Ismail still gets his food from the Missionaries of Charity and he still prays five times a day in the Islamic tradition.
Mother Teresa is no stranger to criticism. Before Bhagwat, atheist and rationalist Christopher Hitchens launched a scathing attack against the Vatican’s decision to grant a speedy sainthood to her.
“Mother had once told us when you get criticised know that you are walking the right path, and she prayed for him,” says Sunita. If she were alive today, the Sunday mass in Mother House would have been dedicated to Bhagwat.