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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

20 October 2003

A Good Human being.

Watching the sea of human heads at Vatican for Mother Theresa’s – how do I address her now? Blessed Mother Theresa? – beatification, a mixed bag of feelings / thought waves surged in my mind.

One, the feeling of watching a long drawn process coming closer to the grand finale`. OK. folks, One more saint in the gallery of spiritual halos. One more holy place where worshippers throng with their multitude of prayers; Now, next....

Two, the sense of pride – after all she was an Indian by her choice of residence. Like all Indians I was / am proud about Kalpana Chawla, though she chose to live in the US, and am proud of Mother Theresa, though she was not born an Indian.

That made me curious; do Albanians or Britons take as much pride in Mother Theresas or Ruskin Bonds as much as we do in Kalpana Chawlas or Naipauls or in all those NRIs /PIOs ( Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origins)? OK. Let me take this up later. For the time being, I admit that Indians anywhere - either by choice of residence or by destiny of birth – have my cheers as long as they are in the achievers / Nobel Prize category.

Three, why is this particular sainthood is so much in the news – to headlines? Seems there have been quite a few Indians attaining sainthood before Mother Theresa? I also thought of the scores of enlightened souls from other faiths. Most of them have huge followers – abroad and in India. And miracles keep “happening” to most of these followers of various spiritual leaders. But they don’t hog media light. May be because the other faiths don’t have this kind of formal and ceremonious “drill” to “Sainthood”? I remember Buddhists have some rigid selection process to choose their spiritual heads – again, the rituals vary from one sub sect to another. But the process hinges solely on the re-incarnation theory. There have been instances where toddlers have been “identified”, as a spiritual head. The toddlers may be interested in playing in the mud; and may not grasp all the "honour" bestowed on them; elders bow to them as they are “groomed” for sainthood.

But I think what distinguishes Mother Theresa from other scores of spiritual souls, is / was her ability to touch people at grassroots level. Her practical approach in giving unconditional care and love.

In day today social interactions, how often we have justified our pettiness /unkindness with a quip – “I’m not a Mother Theresa... ” How often we get away with our rudeness or lack of sensitivity to others’ sufferings with this one liner? Just a few days earlier, walking down another sea of heads on Usman road, Chennai, I cringed to see a plain clothed policeman ( I guessed from his ID peeping from his shirt pocket) kicking an old man lying on the middle of the road with a begging bowl. The passers by – including myself – walked past watching helplessly. I was half a mind to stop and howl at that arrogant “policeman”. But the surging crowd around me on the street and the intimidating look of that man stopped me from intervening. I am ashamed to say – but I did avoid a nasty response - and that too in typical “Madras Tamil” from that fellow or a row on the public place. I went on with one more - “well, I’m not Mother Theresa…” justification.

In such a social milieu, Mother Theresa did what she thought she ought to do.

Of course, there have always been critics who criticized her methods of “service”. Most critics commented on the "unhygienic" (??!!) conditions in the “Homes for the Poor” and there were even some critics who alleged that she unabashedly promoted her own cause – that of mobilizing funds for her charity work and that she was ‘selfish’ in that respect.

In my opinion, miracle or no miracle; sainthood or no sainthood; Mother Theresa was an excellent human being and would remain a role modal for generations to come.


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