Mother Teresa’s works of mercy were liberal actions’
In March 1996, Mother Teresa was on a very special visit to Ahmedabad. The then municipal commissioner of the city, Keshav Varma, made sure to make her visit a memorable one. He also wrote a letter requesting the then BJP mayor, Bhavna Dave, to accord a civic reception to Mother. Dave flatly refused this. Varma then hosted a tea party in his official bungalow for Mother inviting several eminent citizens of the city to interact with her. Mayor Dave also dropped in. One of the Sanghis who accompanied her directly asked Mother, “Why do you convert other people to Christianity?” Very humbly and gently, Mother replied, “I have no power to convert anybody; but if you wish to be converted, I will certainly pray to Jesus and he will touch your life.” Of course, the man was just dumbstruck!
More than nineteen years after her death, Mother Teresa once again hogs the headlines. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief has gone on record to say that Mother’s sole aim was “conversion”; the BJP spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi adds her two bit saying that Mother was baptising even when she was on her death bed! Such petty statements warrant no comment! Mother Teresa is being very conveniently ‘used’ to draw attention away from several serious problems that confront India today: be it the Land Acquisition Ordinance, which has brought thousands of farmers onto the streets of Delhi, or the swine flu which has reached epidemic proportions in several parts of the country!
The ordinary citizen, however, needs to be reminded of the rich legacy, which Mother has left all; these include:
Courage to challenge the rich and the powerful
It is common knowledge that Mother, at most times, ‘got what she wanted and more’. She had that ability of creating discomfiture for certain sections of society. She was not content with the ‘crumbs’ that fell off their tables. She wanted the best (especially dignity) for the poorest of the poor
Ability to be a bridge for a more humane society
Mother was perfectly at ease with all sections of society. The rich and powerful were unable to ‘co-opt’ her to their way of living; many of them joined in her mission. Her unparalleled work proved to be a great leveller. She had no qualms hobnobbing with dictators, as long as she was able to touch their hearts and loosen their tight fists to give to the poor
Commitment to compassion
Mother’s works of mercy were liberal actions. A person who lies in a gutter: in filth and in squalor - with a body that is maggot-ridden, hungry and emaciated, needs just one thing: to be accepted with love as a human being first; then a bath and hot wholesome food. Her compassion was shown in deeds.
Humility in accepting her limitations
She was often criticised of ‘spoiling the poor’; in her typical way she used to quip, “I really can’t help it. That’s all I can do...perhaps you are better, since you spoil the rich.” Or on another occasion when she was accused of not addressing the root causes of injustice, she replied “Well, I think you should be doing that...I am good at doing only this!”
It was not without reason that Mother Teresa was given the Bharat Ratna, the Nobel Peace prize and innumerable other awards from across the globe. The likes of a Bhagwat or a Lekhi and their utterances will never be able to dislodge the fact that she truly “converted” millions the world over, not to Christianity, but to be able to do good to the poor and the marginalised of our world. It is high time many of us accept this CONVERSION!