Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Mother Teresa

Jayanta Mahapatra in his poignant poem - 'Grandfather ' relates the traumatic incident of his grandfather, a Hindu Brahmin - Chintamani Mahapatra, who was compelled to embrace Christianity in order to save his life during the Orissa famine in 1866.

"We wish we had not to wake up with our smiles
in the middle of some social order"
- A reference to some state-imposed social order, (since India was under colonial rule at the time of the famine) - which feeds people but at the cost of their dignity. 

This decision was a hard compromise as he was left with an unfair choice death & conversion. The poet reconstructs this imaginary debate in the mind of the grandfather. Ultimately, faith succumbs to the demands of the body: He wonders how bad he must have felt to let go of his faith and religion for the sake of survival. 

It is a well-known and well documented fact that similar incidents happen in our country to this day. People convert to Christianity for gifts, food and jobs – especially in Andhra Pradesh and North East States. The Pope Francis himself had said, "Practicing charity is the best way to evangelize."


This brings us to the Mother Teresa debate that has embroiled our country… this has left me wondering, what exactly did the RSS chief said which hurt people so much? 

RSS Sarasanghachalal Bhagwat was addressing a function in village Bajhera, 8 kilometers from Bharatpur in Rajasthan where he inaugurated ‘Mahila Sadan’ and ‘Sishu Bal Grah’ - facilities for underprivileged women and children. 

Is calling Mother Teresa a missionary such an insulting thing? By her own admission she was one, she was on a mission to show people the path of Jesus, and bring Jesus’s love to the poorest of the poor. How Mohan Bhagwat was wrong in pointing out what she herself devoted her life to?! She herself triumphantly denied too being a ‘social worker’ insisting that she was doing religious work.

Mother Teresa herself admitted (read boasted) that her work is different from social service . She added the dimension of 'love' of Jesus Christ.

I couldn’t fathom what was insulting in what he said. Yes, Teresa devoted her life to giving the dying a graceful death – her way of Grace was surrendering to the love of Jesus. For the same reason she was felicitated by the Catholic Church. Yes she helped the poor, the dying, the abandoned, but there were strings attached in her help, no matter how sincere she was.

The evangelists, the Jesuits – openly declare that Jesus is the only way to finding peace. The people who are offended with Bhagwat, do they claim that Bhagwat created this concept?! He simply called spade a spade. And mind you, he did it in a courteous enough manner – he appreciated the good humanistic work done by the Mother. He respectfully praised her for it, and extorted Indians to do such work – he did point out the Indian traditional meaning of humanistic work – or ‘sewa’ – which all Indians are already acquainted with. He didn't say anything new there either.

So try as I might, I fail to comprehend the uproar which resulted for the last couple of days.
I was able to categorize the uproar in certain types of noise – one camp was the ones who are desperate to condemn everything and anything that comes from a Hindu organisation. The mainstream media readily fits in this group. Without having any clear understanding of what was actually being said by Bhagwat, they love to cry hoarse in their evening media circus houses.

Then there are ones who gain brownie points by displaying a ‘secular’ (read anti-Hindu, pro-Muslim/Christian). Ex. was Kejriwal, who, before his entry in politics has himself admitted in his Magsaysay Award biography, that under Mother Teresa's guidance –  “There were lots of people in these villages who had started turning to Christianity... Somehow I started feeling guilty. But now that he has his eyes on the Christian vote-bank – he had to pitch in and say pls spare Mother Teresa, she was "noble soul”.

If you want to see real, self-less humanistic work, look at Baba Amte, who devoted his entire life, working for the rehabilitation and empowerment of poor people suffering from leprosy without any religious fanaticism.

Or in contemporary times, look at RSS  - across the country, RSS Rashtriya Seva Bharati runs about 1,38,667 service projects irrespective of caste or religion.


Or look at another Indian way of social service- Langar at Gurudwaras - one of the best examples of seva in modern times...
Today, thousands of free Langar meals are served every day in Sikh temples throughout UK.
Homeless people in the UK are getting free meals thanks to a centuries-old Sikh tradition.
And, hence, for all the people who are up in arms - over Mohan Bhagwat's speech - at least, hear exactly what he said - before you go bonkers after reading Yellow Journalism headlines. 

But, please don't take my word for it - kindly listen for yourself - what exactly he said. He did not say one bad word against Mother Teresa.

His 'controversial' speech audio and full text is given in the link:

Bhagwat was talking about the need for Indian youth to selflessly devote some time for social work - "When ‘seva’ is done nothing is expected in return expect the well being of the affected. Mother Teresa's service may have been important but her service was rendered with an intention that those served converted to Christianity. Whether a person wishes to convert to Christianity should be left to the person. Service has to be completely selfless and expecting absolutely nothing in return."

I wish every Indian would listen to Mohan Bhagwat's speech and inculcate a habit to help the downtrodden in any small manner they can... "Why should someone else from abroad come and serve our own people when we ourselves are here? We need to serve our own needy people and not delegate it to those who come from outside. A needy who is served will later become able enough to stand on his/her own and in turn serve other who are in need."

Bhagwat has said nothing different from what Swami Vivekananda said - work towards uplifting the poor and underprivileged of our country... It is our collective responsibility to provide them food, shelter, education, medical we must contribute some time, energy, resources towards this duty.

Let mainstream media go bonkers over one thing he said; they are diluting his intent and message and twisting it to suit their own agenda. 
Media always does this - dilutes good nationalistic messages to create pointless controversies - lets not help their cause.
Let us focus on the important things - there is a need for us to bring social reforms and eradicate poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other social ills.

Let us recall Swami Vivekananda’s words – “Who thinks of raising these sunken downtrodden millions? A few hundred graduates do not make a nation, a few rich men do not make a nation. True, our opportunities are less, but sill there is enough to feed and clothe and make millions more comfortable…”

Jai Hind.


  1. Well written! More people need to read this!

    1. Thanks Sachin. Such appreciation and motivation keeps me going :)

  2. A must read for all! And beautifully written :) Articles like these are much needed to be read and shared today when media is so visibly biased (visible only to a few!) and most people have no clue about this.

    Jai Hind.

    1. Thank you for kind words of appreciation. India needs more young men like you.