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Mother Teresa was regarded and adored as the ‘Saint of the Gutters’ even when she was alive. Officially acknowledging her as a Saint is a fitting tribute to someone who has meant the world to millions all over, very specially to the poor and the marginalized; to the excluded and the rejected!
Very symbolically, Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997. ‘Teacher’s Day’ has traditionally been observed in India on September 5 as a tribute (on his birth anniversary) to the late President of India Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who besides being a great educationist and philosopher, also believed that education is the key to India’s inclusive development. As a young nun in the Loretto Convent, Mother Teresa was trained to be a teacher.
She embraced this profession with great love and dedication. This was evident in the many years she taught in the St. Mary’s Bengali Medium School for girls in Kolkata. When she left the Loretto Sisters in 1948 to found the Missionaries of Charity, she never stopped being a teacher!
She was convinced that the poor children of the slums in Calcutta (her new home) had to be taught the 3Rs (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic) but more than that, she realized that education had to be inclusive and value-based.
For Mother Teresa, Jesus was the Master Teacher; and she did all she could to communicate HIS values to those around her. Over the years Mother Teresa became the embodiment of many values but high among them were the values of Jesus: Compassion, Courage and Commitment.
If ever one would dare give a core competency to Mother Teresa, it is the single characteristic of being a compassionate person. She lived this quality in a way, few humans have ever done; her love for the marginalized and the vulnerable and particularly for the poorest of the poor was boundless. She was able to give and not to count the cost. It was her ability to be compassionate towards others that motivated her to found the Missionaries of Charity. She was effusive in her compassion for others. It was a common sight to see her embracing someone –who lesser mortals would find any excuse to be a mile away from.
It takes courage to answer a call and Mother Teresa demonstrated this value many times over. As a very young European, she left the distant shores of her country to come to serve in India. Living in India in those days was not easy, yet she opted for a tougher life, literally ‘pitching her tent’ among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Kolkata. She had to face several obstacles all through her life but she faced them squarely, proving that she was truly a woman of substance.
She was often accused of “conversion” (that continues even today from the RSS and their ilk). In March 1996 when she visited Ahmedabad, the Municipal Commissioner hosted a reception at his residence inviting several eminent citizens of the city and also the Mayor and her husband to it. The Mayor’s husband wanted to trap Mother with that stereo-typed question, (in full glare of the media) “Mother, why do you want to convert people?” – pat came a reply “who am I to convert?I can never convert. Only God converts! From this moment onwards, I will pray to God to convert you too”. The ‘protester’ stood there just too shell-shocked to say another word! Mother Teresa proved that she had the courage of her convictions!