City of Joy-Kolkata

In the city of joy

“Let every action of mine be something beautiful for God. “

By Aleesha Joykutty

Mother house…? ” asked the perplexed taxi driver. After a 15 minutes taxi journey from Nizam Palace, we finally reached the Mother House in Kolkata, nicknamed as the City of Joy by Dominique Lapiere in his novel. A huge board – Missionaries of Charity, made us realize that this was our destination. It was a 3 storied greyish building in the midst of a congested area on the side of a busy road with no compound. It was previously called as ‘ Grey Nun’s Building ‘.

An old sister clad in a wrinkled white saree with blue strips covering her head and a rosary in her hands welcomed us with a smile. Adorning the walls were Mother Theresa’s statues, photographs with eminent persons and a board signalling ‘Photography not allowed ‘.

The plot originally belonged to the Gomez brothers who gave it to Mother Theresa to start the Institution. A narrow staircase led to a small, poorly furnished room with a small bed, a chair and some paintings. Simplicity reflected the place where she lived, a simple life so that others may simply live.

Nuns were decorating her large sombre tomb with marigold. We paid our homage. Not many were present barring a few Indians and foreigners. While some had quivering lips with prayers and tear’s flowing down their eyes, others knelt and stooped near the tomb in devotion. Sisters were doing household chores, as the aroma of surfactant, washing bar and breakfast filled the air.

The museum displayed mother’s worn put sandals and enamelled dinner bowls. The wall was adorned with her early life photographs. I saw here beautiful handwritten notes. But what I loved the most was the representation of here entire lifetime with dolls. It was innovative. We read here life story. We were happy to meet a Keralite nun who described everything about mother’s life storyline and made us feel comfortable.

She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to a God fearing Albanian Roman Catholic family in Skopje (Republic of Macedonia). She left home to join the Sisters of Loreto and came to Darjeeling, India as a novitiate in 1929. She added a 4th vow of ‘ whole hearted service to the poorest of the poor’ to her vocation. On a train journey from Calcutta to Loreto convent on 10 September, 1946, she heard a ‘call within a call’ and replaced her Loreto habit with a saree to start the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

Then, we left for four next destination. Rabindra Sadan – Netaji Bhavan – Kalighat : the journey by the Calcutta metro reminded me of my own Mumbai locals. The metro was crowded as it was Mamta Banerjee’s oath taking ceremony. Four next destination was Mother’s world famous but surprisingly small home for the

dying and the destitute – Nirmal Hriday or ‘ Home of the Pure Heart’. Established in 1952, it is situated adjacent to the Mali temple. We walked along the lane dodging garland makers, Hindu God idols and people and was surprised to find Nirmal Hriday with it’s architecture in typical Hindu temple style.

Yes, it was a temple converted into a destitute home. The signboard read “Mother’s first love”. Realising that’s we were lost, a sister donning an apron greeted us. We were told to keep silence amidst the chaos. People were screaming with pain. As I touched a small unpolished table, she said, “Mother’s table, she used to wrote all here income and expenses here.” Just by the side, a group of foreign volunteers lofted an old disfigured man crying with pain to bathe him. Their volunteers came everyday without showing any hesitation she said. They would wash the open sores of the inmates, bandage them with love and soothe them with comforting words.

“Service to humanity is service to God. “

Upstairs, the green beds were neatly decked in rows as the inmates had home to pray. For their near and dear ones, they were just a heap of bones and flesh with diseases, but for the sisters they were beautiful creations of God. They just smiled with tears rolling down their soft and helpless eyes. They were

unwanted, unloved and uncared for and forgotten by everybody before they came to Mothers House.

The next day morning, after having a matka chai, we went to the Mother’s House to attend a Latin rite mass. The loud noise of the trams didn’t affect four joy and enthusiasm. It was a feeling of heavenly worship with hymns and prayers in Bengali, English and Hindi. We saw the novitiate sisters(new nuns) sitting in unbroken lines worshipping Him.

From just 13 members in Calcutta to 45, 000 in 133 countries, Mother’s institution has made a remarkable progress. She experienced doubts, loneliness and temptations in here early years to return to the comforts of convent life, but didn’t succumb to the pressure.

“Let every action of mine be something beautiful for God. “

Aleesha Joykutty, a 2nd year medical student at GMC Kolhapur, Maharashtra state, India. She is a volunteer with Vector NGO, Samvad, Letters to Strangers-Kolhapur Chapter, Rotaract club of Caduceus. She loves traveling, photography & scribbling her thoughts.