Saturday, September 03, 2016

In Mother's Abode, All Walls Will Fall

A group of South Africans met Mother Teresa for the first time

Photo: South African officials and cricketers including captain Clive Rice (in forefront) with Mother Teresa at Kolkata in 1991. Photo courtesy: Sportsworld magazine, The ABP Group, Kolkata

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 4 p.m. on a day in November, 1991, Mother Teresa walked to the verandah of the first floor of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. The group of people who had been sitting, on two benches, got up. They had a look of awe, respect and affection.

Mother came and stood in the middle of the group, a short, stooping figure, with a wonderful smile on her face. “Thank you very much for coming,” she said.

“Yes Mother,” said Geoff Dakin, the president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA). “We have come to give you a donation.”

Mother said, “Oh thank you very much for your concern for God’s work.” She was speaking very softly that all the people had to bend their heads to hear, especially the 6’2” Geoff.

Suddenly, she said, “My, what a big packet you have given me.”

“Yes, it contains Rs 1 lakh rupees,” said Krish Mackerdhuj, Vice President of UCBSA.

“One lakh!” said Mother. “Thank you very much. We need the money. We could open a Children’s Home in Cape Town.”

The normally loquacious Krish was at a loss for words. So also were the two South African journalists, Carl Bongi, a black, and Gerald Dekock, a white, both of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

Earlier, while waiting for Mother, Krish, of Indian origin, told me, “We had not planned to give a donation. But when we saw the work that she was doing, we felt compelled to help in some way. And the Board decided to give this money.”

Then he turned to Bongi and said, “Hey, Bongi, do you want to buy a baby tiger, to take back home?”

“A baby tiger,” said Bongi. “Where can you get them?”

Krish said, “You can get them at any corner of Calcutta. It is not very expensive. It will be a good gift.”

Bongi rubbed his crinkly black hair, his eyes wide open and astonished, and then he saw a smile slowly break out on Krish’s face.

“Hey man,” he said, as realisation dawned on him. “You are pulling my leg!”

The white journalist Gerald asked Bongi, “Where do you live?”

“I live in Soweto, but I am planning to move out,” said Bongi. “There is too much violence there.”

It was remarkable that these two people, both in their thirties and working in the same company, did not know where the other lived. They seemed to be bridging the colour barrier for the first time.

Was this the effect of Mother Teresa?

Two people, in a building of love, thousands of kilometres away from home, taking the first tentative steps across the racial divide.

Does love triumph in the end? 

(Published as a middle in the New Indian Express, South India editions) 

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