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"The mystery of Mother Teresa" published The Hindu on August 26, 2009
To love one’s neighbour was to love God — this was the key, not the size of her mission or the power others perceived in her. Mother explained it thus to her biographer: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.”
Mother Teresa, the diminutive nun who straddled her century as one of its most towering personalities, was at one level a very simple person and at another a complex enigma. In modern management parlance, she could well be projected as a management guru who could have presented to the world’s best business schools her uniquely evolved model for success. With 4,000 nuns, she created a multinational enterprise of service that encompassed 123 countries by the time she died in 1997.
She would however have rejected such a proposition because her model was not based on material achievement, but on its spiritual quotient that sprung from and was nurtured by her faith. It required no banks of computers, no army of accountants, no bureaucrats. Her Order was rooted to a unique vow of “wholehearted free service” to the abject poor and marginalised.
As her biographer, I found there were several mysteries that lent themselves to no easy answers. Mother Teresa was hardly qualified in academic terms. She never went to university and her studies were largely confined to the scriptures. And yet she set up hundreds of schools that lifted poor children from a desolate life on the streets. She provided a safety net for the homeless by opening feeding centres and soup kitchens and also started Shishu Bhawans for infants her sisters found abandoned in the streets. There were homes for the terminally ill, so that they were not alone when they died. Not all these centres were in the poorer parts of the world; many were in the affluent west where loneliness and despair was a sickness she likened to leprosy.