By Arun Krishnadas
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior editor, The Indian Economist
Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu or Mother Teresa as she was later known, was born on 26th August 1910, to an orthodox Albanian family, and was baptised the following day, which is often cited as her birthday. ‘104’ years down the line, in a time of growing concern for the socially backward classes of our society, the values which ‘the mother’ stood for, need to be revisited and remodelled to suit the changing times.
The questions as to who she was, the controversies surrounding her particularly in terms of the unhygienic conditions which existed in her homes run for the poor, even with adequate funds at hand, and the several views regarding her beatification remain, but just a glance into her life and times is enough for us to dispense these to the sidelines, and gain inspiration, which has over the last several decades, been transforming lives for the better. As of today India has a Human Development Index (HDI) ranking of 135, and lies in the range of ‘middle development’ countries like Egypt, Philippines and Mongolia. It is in this context that we need to look up to the Missionaries of Charity, and their undying work for social well-being over the last 5 decades.
The aim of this order is to provide life-long care to the homeless, the hungry and to the underprivileged. The missionaries themselves live a very simple life, without any of the comforts of the modern-day world, and the struggles they undergo during their tenure are enough for us to believe that they are manifestoes of God himself who walk among us. Covering almost 123 countries, constituting orphanages, old-age homes, leprosy centres and schools, Mother Teresa’s vision still remains prominent. Navin B.Chawla in his biography of Mother Teresa states how she believed in the fourth vow of the missionaries, namely “proving whole-hearted service to the poorest of the poor”, and she feelt that as long as the order remains rooted to this belief, without getting lost in the chaos of the middle or upper classes, it will move forward.
To the common man, the thoughts and deeds of this saint might feel distant. After all who would be caring enough to clean the ulcers of a leprosy patient, even amidst fears of catching this deadly disease, all for the sake of a smile from a stranger? But anyone who has read into the lives of the Mother would know that she felt differently about the roles which the layman could play in improving the well-being of those nearest to him. There are two quotes by her which one would do well to remember in these dire times of live-and-let-live. “Peace begins with a smile”, one of her favourite quotes, has relevance at all times. We see the so-called “destitute” on the roads, and turn a blind eye, sometimes feeling sympathy and sometimes apathy. But one thing we never give a thought to is the difference a smile could make. It remains the best free gift we could give to humanity at large.
She also said that one should “help one person a time, starting with those nearest to you”. Fundamental flaws in many systems are the schemes which look great on paper are often not implemented on the ground. Hence even as the people feel that they are serving the society and that the money is being used in the right manner, the ground remains shaky and no one benefits. This amongst others should be on the top of our priorities list of corrective measures, particularly as responsible citizens of tomorrow. Any work you take up should not be left mid-way, particularly when there are lives at stake. In such times, it would be a good idea to look up to the lives of the likes of Ramakrishna and Mother Teresa, and gain inspiration from them, inspiration that will walk on the sands of time forever and help you understand the essence of life.
Arun is a reserved individual, who places his interests at par with those of others around him. He is determined when he sets onto something, but still spends long amounts of time introspecting on his decisions, whatever be the results. He likes to spend time with friends, reading books, watching sports and films, writing his heart out and setting time tables for a better tomorrow. He believes that for some things, there’s today, and for others there’s tomorrow, be it the one that comes or the one that doesn’t.