My experiences with Saint Mother Teresa
I am writing this note to share my personal experiences with Mother. She was my guru. Although she never tried to teach me anything deliberately, I kept following her like a disciple during her numerous visits to Bhopal.
Mother was a family friend since our days in Calcutta. My relationship continued in Bhopal. Mother’s first mission was to build a house in Bhopal for the destitute. My Mother Magdalene Bourbon nee Ghosal donated land for this cause in the heart of Bhopal. Being a Bourbon, who were very close to the Begums of Bhopal, Magdalene Ghosal inherited property in the heart of Bhopal. To start this process of land transfer, we decided to meet Mr. M. N. Buch, an IAS officer and an Administrator of the Municipal Cooperation. Mother Teresa, another Bhopal based sister and myself went to his office in Saddar Manzil. I had to introduce Mother to Mr. Buch since at that time she was not a well-known figure. Mother Teresa started to explain why she wanted to build a home for the Destitute. After twenty minutes I heard Mr Buch saying, “Mother you don’t worry, I will build a house for the destitute for you”. I was shocked! A government officer saying that he is willing to build the house with government funds was unheard of. That was the first miracle!
Mother Teresa is canonized now, but for me she became a Saint when she started her Order[Missionaries of Charities] in Calcutta. In 1960 I met her in Calcutta, my Father Col. S.C.Ghosal held an important post at the Calcutta Transport Corporation. Once my father was very sick and my mother, who was Mother Teresa’s friend, asked her to pray for my father. He soon recovered. Magdaline Ghosal wanted to thank Mother by giving her something. She couldn’t find anything at hand so she presented Mother with a beautiful saree, though doubting what a nun will do with a silver color saree. We went to Mother’s lower circular road house and we sat in the parlor. There we heard Mother saying“I have built the alter now we need a beautiful cloth to put on it”. My mother got up and gave the saree to her.
From the day I saw her, I knew she was different. She had something to tell the world, some message to give. When Mother started visiting Bhopal, I always met her at the Airport. She used be wearing her usual 4 yard saree, carrying her petite blue bag and rubber slippers. Nothing extraordinary and the biggest thing was she never preached.
I was very young, to understand her mission. Gradually working with her I learned what her mission was. It was not only religion but something more - love for humanity. She saw Jesus in a leper, or a destitute. People built hospitals, but why would any one build a safe place for people to die- Home for the destitute and dying. She would bring people from the roadside to give them a peaceful and a dignified death. These people couldnt witness a dignified life, but atleast their last days were full of love and dignity. Later on she build a home for the unwanted Children.
Once we were serving food to the lepers near the railway Station gutter. They wanted some more rotis. I was placing the rotis in their plates. Mother apologized to them and softly instructed me, “when you give food, bend your back and give food. They are our guest. We need to rest respect them”. For her, wealthy and the poor were all the same.
One day Shri Arjun Singh ji, the then Chief Minister, invited her with his full cabinet. Mother and myself got down from the car, the Chief Minister’s driver caught her feet crying saying that his son was very sick. With the Chief Minister and his cabinet waiting, Mother did not move till the time she prayed over the driver. That was the first time we saw some sign of the events to come. She started her journey to sainthood.
On 3rd Dec. 1984 Bhopal suffered the biggest man-made chemical disaster in the world- the Bhopal Gas tragedy. At a time when everyone was fleeing Bhopal, Mother came with a plane-load of blankets, medicine for the eyes, some tin food, etc. There was a rumor that the leak has continued and Bhopal is un-safe for civilization. People were asked to evacuate. Mother refused to leave and she insisted on sitting in the Church, with her rosary. Some of us joined her and kept on praying for the safety of Bhopal. After sometime, Arjun Singh ji came and informed her to not worry and that Bhopal is safe. We kept going inside people’s houses in the slums near the railway station and those who were alive, kept putting eye drops that Mother had brought with her. I loaded my jeep everyday with those drops and along with Mother distributed to the lucky people who were alive. The government health care centers were running short of those eye drops.
At that time, Mother became more popular with the non-Christians. They gave a big reception for her at Sadar Manzil. It was given by Ramash Aggarwal Chairman Bhaskar group of Publications. Governor, Mr. Chandy, Chief Minister Mr. Motilal Vohra felicitated the event. Many eminent dignitaries were present for the occasion. The event was to honor Mother for her service for humanity.
The next crisis that Bhopal witnessed was the fall of Babri Masjid was in 1992. Bhopal had faced its worst communal riots. Missionaries of Charity sisters were ready with food packets. This time Mother couldn’t visit, but promptly sent food for the victims which was distributed at both Hindu and Muslim camps.
Mother and I spent a lot of time together and had many conversations Her life showed me the way. I have seen miracles happen with her. Some days there was no food at her home and by evening, someone or the other would come with a bag full of wheat flour. She has immense trust in the lord. I learnt how Christianity could be practiced in real life through her. I came to the know the meaning of “Love thy neighbor” from her acts. She still remains an inspiration to me and my actions.
Mrs Indira Iyengar