Brahmavar/Udupi: Nobody can demean a noble soul. Noble souls such as Mother Teresa’s can never be blemished by some ill-advised, calumnious statements. It’s much like the plan to build a statue for Nathuram Godse. Building a statue for Godse can only venerate Gandhiji. The same logic holds good for the ‘Saint of the Gutters’.
The outrage at the accusation that all her service was motivated by conversion was on expected lines. The silver lining however is that the collective secular mind of our nation has asserted itself like never before in the wake of this uncalled for diatribe. India is too strong a nation to be divided, its people mature and tolerant to such an extent that they will quietly but firmly assert themselves, during provocations like this denigration of a saintly soul. We have had many instances even in the recent past at the Delhi Elections when the silent majority asserted unambiguously against the vocal minority. Empty rhetoric is no substitute for dedicated hard work. If working for the poor brings votes, do we denigrate politicians for doing so? If picking up the lepers from the streets and nursing them to health, and lending them dignity and respect are respectable, why are very few doing it? Why did we end up with just one Mother Teresa?
When Mother Teresa was conferred the highest civilian honour of Bharat Ratna, it’s reported that the entire audience gave a standing ovation lasting longer than on any such occasion before or after. It lasted longer because the frail lady took long to reach the dais, but the audience stood and applauded, right through. This audience included all shades of the political spectrum, all religions, castes and communities. This has been unprecedented for more than one reason. Mind you, she was an Albanian nun who came to India at the age of 20 and spent her entire life here. She picked up the destitute, the poor, the homeless, the lepers of the street and lent them both life and dignity. Her heart always bled for the downtrodden and the marginalized. To find motives and malign her is tantamount to crucifying. Perhaps she would have been most pleased to be crucified for being a champion of the poor and the deprived. In fact she would have been gratified to be in the same league as the source of her inspiration – Jesus Christ.
The world has honoured her with the Nobel Peace Prize during her life-time. The whole world knows about the services of this frail nun in white saree with blue borders. The easiest pictures to draw are those of Gandhiji and Mother Teresa. They are the delight of every caricaturist. However it is not easy to caricature them by stereotyping them as ordinary mortals with ulterior motives. The problem lies in our mindset namely that we think that there can never be a truly altruistic human action, and that every human act is propelled by a hidden motive. This logic doesn’t really apply to godly people, irrespective of their religious persuasion. Each time someone tries to denigrate them, they re-emerge with greater vigor and get further enshrined in the minds of their admirers. The present controversy has only enabled the resurrection of the Mother, rather than anything else.
Mother Teresa was no stranger to controversies, even during her life-time. She was criticized for her ‘sinister’ motives, her stance on abortion, her source of funding etc. All that, however, did not discourage her, because she had a sacred mission in life. All what she said in a nutshell was “We cannot do great things on this earth, but only small things with great love”. This is a classic response. It just shows her simplicity and candour. Arvind Kejriwal who had personally witnessed her work in Calcutta, said, “She is a noble soul. Please spare her”. I think he was echoing exactly the feelings of a large section of society. He should know better, as in the present political firmament, none has been as prescient as he. Jyoti Basu, the veteran communist was her close associate. Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee were both her great admirers. Both of them stood up with folded hands when the Mother climbed the dais to receive the Bharat Ratna. Our parliament’s archives bear witness to this historic event.
There is yet another serious implication to this controversy. If we impute motives for all good deeds, and thereby debunk them, there will be fewer people to do them. Absolute selflessness is a myth. The only difference is in the kind of gain that is expected from a good deed. If the gain is noble, and not something at the expense of others, there is nothing wrong with it. In other words, good deeds done out of a feeling of compassion and empathy may generate a sense of self-worth and mental satisfaction to the doer.This cannot be considered ‘selfishness’. If every such expectation is a ‘motive’, then there is no human endeavour that is devoid of a ‘motive’.
As for Mother Teresa, her sole motive was to do ‘something beautiful for God’. It was her faith that motivated her to do all what she did, nothing else.
Prof. Mathew C. Ninan is the Principal of the reputed Little Rock Indian School in Brahmavar, Udupi District in Karnataka. He is the recipient of the Kannada Rajyotsava Award for Education from the Udupi District in 2014. He had his early education in Kerala, schooling in CMS UP School, and High School, Kodukulanji and his collegiate education in Bishop Moore College, Mavelikara and St. Joseph’s College, Kozhikode.
Prof. Ninan did his MA (English Language & Literature) under the renowned Professor C A Sheppard, in the Calicut University. Thereafter he started his career in teaching as a Lecturer in English at SMS Junior College, Brahmavar in Karnataka. Then he moved to St. Aloysius College, Mangalore and lectured there till he was appointed Principal of newly started SMS College, Brahmavar. He served as its Principal for seven years. During this period, Dr. C.T. Abraham his father-in-law came to Brahmavar and established the Priority One India, a charitable organization. It was Professor Ninan’s dream to start a progressive, central school in Brahmavar. There was only a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Mangalore those days. Thus in 1982 the Little Rock Indian School, affiliated to CBSE was started. Little Rock was the first school affiliated to a central board in the private sector in southern Karnataka. The rest is history.