Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who devoted her entire life to the cause of poverty reduction, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Not long ago, she was canonized (recognized by the church as a saint) by the Roman Catholic Church. As a matter of fact, the legendary nun born in Kosovo Vilayet of Ottoman Empire (now a part of Kosovo) is already worshipped as a saint by the Indian people. She spent most of her life in Calcutta, her second hometown, and the local residents often refer to her as “the saintess of Calcutta”.
The former residence of Mother Teresa is known to all
For the local residents of Calcutta, the place is known by the world thanks to two celebrities: one man and one woman. The man is Rabindranath Tagore, and the woman is Mother Teresa. The former residence of Mother Teresa is located on the JCBose Road in the downtown area of Calcutta. The small alley is not easy to look for, but the travelers don’t have to worry about not finding it. Whoever you ask on the street, or whichever taxi you get on, you will be led to the former residence of Mother Teresa unmistakably so long as you ask where it is. When the reporter of Global Times visited Calcutta for the first time, we felt quite surprised at this. In India, we were haunted by the unhappy memories of failed attempt in asking the way. Before we finally arrived at the former residence of Mother Teresa following the instructions of the local residents, we missed the narrow entrance of the ally for two consecutive times, and were sure that we got there in sight of a small signboard – almost the size of my palm, with white background and blue characters – which was fixed at the wall only as tall as an ordinary people. The signboard demonstrates nothing special, and the architectures there are same as usual. The outlook of the former residence, quite like the character of Mother Teresa, seems so humble and modest to us. However, who knows that it is the cradle of “Missionaries of Charity”, an organization of global impact, and the spiritual center of the philanthropic culture?
The place was small indeed, but the pilgrims worshipping Mother Teresa came in endless stream. The tiny courtyard stroke me with its plain and ordinary style, which I already expected before I came in. Turning right after entering the door, you would find a statue of Madonna in the corner under a glass cover, on which was written: “The spotless mind of Madonna is the fountain of our happiness, and she is praying for us all.” Some place a little lower than the statue of Madonna stood the life-sized bronze statue of Mother Teresa. She was a bit stooped, and was as if gently touching the head of a kid by extending her right hand, wearing a kind smile.
The courtyard is where Mother Teresa used to live and work, and her graveyard is here, too. Her tombstone is located in a solemn and awe-inspiring hall on the first floor of her former residence. By “hall” I mean a room around 30 to 40 square kilometers in size. The floor takes on a dark color, and in the center is a rectangular tombstone made of white marble. The epitaph is inscribed in small characters, saying “You shall love each other as I love you all.” In the center are the words put together with golden petals, saying “All belongs to Jesus.”
Stepping on the narrow stairs in the opposite direction of the tomb hall, you will reach a small room on the second floor, around 7 to 8 kilometers in size. Here was the studio and the bedroom of Mother Teresa. The narrow space is stuffed with a small wooden bed (less than 1 meter in width, a chair, a table, and a bookcase, no more. Who knows that the master of this cramped, shabby room used to be in charge of one of the world’s largest charity foundation, which amounted to over 400 million U.S. dollars. There are only 2 electrical appliances in this room – a lamp and a telephone. All of Mother Teresa’s possessions include a statues of Jesus, a pair of sandals and 3 pieces of garments. The garments are of the same style – white saris decorated with blue rims, in which Mother Teresa put her unique signature – each of which cost only 1 U.S. dollar. So humbly dressed, she walked straight to the podium of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. So humbly dressed, she frequently visited the most shabby, dirty slums in Calcutta since 1948, and offered whatever she could offer to “the poorest among the poor”.
Other 3 “homes” of Mother Teresa
Apart from her own residence, there are other 3 “homes” built by Mother Teresa in Calcutta – namely, the home for the abandoned infants, the home for the dying men and the home for the lepers. Inspired by the great spirit of Mother Teresa, volunteers from all corners of the world come here and provide selfless services to the miserable people even nowadays. The home for the abandoned infants is no more than several minutes’ walk from Mother Teresa’s former residence. It is a two-storey house. Abandoned babies aged 1 to 2 years old are taken care of on the first floor, and on the second are those forsaken by their parents in name of physical disabilities. The volunteers looking after the infants include college students, ordinary employees and retired senior citizens. The volunteers are required to register on the official website of the Missionaries of Charity (a.k.a. the M.C.). The volunteers are demanded of a loving heart and extra patience, and they must be capable of communicating in English.
There is a widespread legend about the birth of the home for the lepers. When Mother Teresa travelled to Sweden to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he learned that the reception banquet after the awarding ceremony would cost as much as 6 thousand U.S. dollars. Upon her request, the guests attending the ceremony unanimously agreed to cancel the banquet. Thanks to the money saved, which was originally spent on the banquet, and the money she earned by selling her Nobel medal, Mother Teresa managed to build the home for the lepers shortly after she returned to Calcutta.
The home for the dying people in Calcutta was established by Mother Teresa in 1952. It takes half an hour by car to reach there, starting from her former residence. The home is neighboring one of the most famous Kali temples in India. The home used to be a diserted Hindu temple, and Mother Teresa decided to build it into a charity institution that treats and comforts the dying old men after necessary renovations, with the joint efforts of the local government. The home, however, is said to irritate the Hindu monks and disciples living nearby, as they thought it was a blasphemy of their gods. In the early years, people often made trouble in the home and even robbed things. Mother Teresa, however, would face them fairly and frankly in whatever situation, and she kindly addressed the robbers: “Take whatever you want. God loves you…” In the end, those wrongdoers were touched by the kindheartedness of Mother Teresa, and turned from the objectors to stanch supporters of the home. Here at home, the dying old men cannot only receive the necessary medical treatments, but also spirit consolations which are also of vital importance. The Muslims can listen to the chanting of the Quran, the Hindus can be baptized with the holy water of the Ganges, and the Catholics are giving the commendation of the soul… In the end, everyone here dies with dignity.
A legacy of over 600 charity institutions
Mother Teresa was by the side of “the poorest of the poor” in India, either in the slums of Calcutta, or the dirty ditches of the city, and her efforts lasted for over half a century. As a matter of fact, Mother Teresa left no earth-shattering achievements in the long span of her life. All she did was repeating the most ordinary contributions day after day with the time and energy of her entire life, and the seemingly ordinary efforts resulted in greatness. As Mother Teresa used to say: “We are sometimes not capable of doing the great things, but we can do the small things with the greatest love.” After Mother Teresa passed away, her legacy to the mankind include over 100 thousand voluntary workers, and over 600 charity institutions located in 127 nations of the world. △