By Vijay Darda | 21-03-2016
When we think of Mother Teresa our mind almost compulsively also recalls Princess Diana. Though we know that physically there is no comparison between the two. The Princess was tall, elegant and simply charming, Mother was short hunched and perhaps born old. We remember her wrinkled hands in prayer and Diana’s glowing radiance. But death connected them in a way that went beyond life. Indeed, when a young Diana died in a car crash in 1997 (she was just 36), the 87 year old Mother said: “She was very concerned for the poor. She was very anxious to do something for them. That is why she was close to me.” Perhaps so close that precisely six days later, Mother too passed away. Both the eminently graceful ladies were given a farewell funeral that still remains fresh in our minds almost twenty years after.
Apart from death, the two gracious ladies were also connected by the choices they made. Diana was royalty and could have lived a sumptuous jet-set life and still have been considered a decent person yet she chose, once the duties that came with her title and marriage were behind her, to still seek out horrible places and wretched people who could gain from her giving. The way she went out to areas that had been land-mined demonstrated her courage and the willingness to “care.” Like her, Mother Teresa chose her life; chose a life of giving beyond even that of most who share her religious vows. Diana gave some of herself while Mother Teresa gave her all, yet both did give and no one made them.
Of course, you can find faults with both of them. Finding faults in others is just a human failing. But the point is- should it really be very difficult to appreciate genuine human warmth and goodness when we see it with our own eyes? Besides, isn’t it churlish to crib over a Sainthood that is conferred posthumously? But then some habits die hard. Punching holes in the reputation of those who have toiled hard and making desperate efforts in bringing down those who have scaled unimaginable peaks are few of the usual habits that inform our public discourse. Not that the effort succeeds, but these habitual offenders are guided by the principle that there is no harm in trying.
Come to think of it, you do not have to adhere to Mother’s Christian faith to appreciate the essential humanity of her service. The fact that the doors of her Missionaries of Charities were open to all those who had no other place to go is enough to place her high up on the pedestal. In doing so, she did not discriminate against any caste, religion or language. If this is not saintly, then pray what is? To keep doing this for decades, and to raise an army of nuns who are carrying forward her mission in the service of the neglected humanity is surely laudable beyond words. It is in the fitness of things that she is being canonised, as mark of the recognition of her service to the humanity. There is hardly any other example of a lady leaving the comforts of her first world home and settling in a third world country to lead the life of a nun with such distinction. So rightly the Bharat Ratna, our highest civilian award was conferred upon her in 1980.
Creating needless controversies is fast becoming our national pastime. Take this ruckus over the slogan Bharat Mata ki Jai? Can anyone in his sane mind ever object to it in India? That too by citing the Constitution? Indeed, when we pierce facade and get to the bottom of it all, we find that the same dirty vote bank politics of polarising the communities on religious lines is at work? It is time to ask, how low are we going to stoop in our public discourse in search of votes? Will we not spare even our dear mother land? After all, Allama Iqbal, the poet who crafted that unforgettable ode to the nation “Saare Jahan se achha” had said famously: “Patthar ki mooraton mein samjha hai tu khuda hai/ khaake watan ka mujhko har zarra devata hai (for you, an idol of stone is a god/ every particle of the country’s sand is a deity to me.)” So, what is the problem for Asaduddin Owaisi and his MLA to shout Bharat Mata ki jai? Or what are their views about the great Iqbal? May be Owaisi hopes to gain politically, even as he helps the BJP/RSS divert the attention from other critical issues. Anyway the whole issue leaves a bad after taste, and one is grateful to the Bollywood personality Javed Akhtar for setting the record straight in the Rajya Sabha. He made the right argument when he said: “The Constitution even does not ask him to wear sherwani (dress) and topi (cap)… I don’t care to know whether saying ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ is my duty or not, it is my right.”
In Mother’s case, the canonisation has been long in coming. For many she was a saint during her lifetime and they all looked up to her service of the humanity with the right mixture of admiration and respect. In the 87 years Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (her real name) had travelled a huge distance in her spiritual journey that began when she joined the Sisters of Loretto at the age of 17 and was sent to Calcutta. She found her calling after she contracted tuberculosis, and was sent to rest in Darjeeling. On the way, she felt what she called an order from God to leave the convent and live among the poor. The Albania-born nun and missionary was by far the most high-profile of the five candidates for sainthood considered by the Vatican panel on Tuesday, and when she will be canonised finally on September 4th this year it would send a huge cheer among those who suffer and the ones who are cared for by the care givers who follow her footsteps.
Before I conclude…
The Bombay High Court has directed the State government to include 6,147 villages of the four districts of Eastern Vidarbha, namely Amravati, Akola, Yavatmal and Washim among the drought affected areas. It is tragic that something that should have been done by the State government on its own, needs the intervention of the high court. So, it is quite logical that the high court has also slammed the State government for its ‘callous and indifferent’ approach towards the farmers.