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Articles on Mother Teresa

"An unusual friendship" published in The Hindu on January 19, 2010

Mother Teresa photo with Shri Jyoti Basu Ex CM of West BengalPTI Mother Teresa invariably prefixed "my friend" before she took Jyoti Basu's name.

Asked what he, a Communist and atheist, could possibly have in common with Mother Teresa for whom God was everything, Jyoti Basu said with a smile: “We both share a love for the poor.”

The Hindu requested Navin B. Chawla, Chief Election Commissioner of India and Mother Teresa’s biographer, to share his insights into the remarkable friendship between Jyoti Basu and the founder of the Missionaries of Charity:

During the course of writing a biography on Mother Teresa, I asked Chief Minister Jyoti Basu what he, a Communist and atheist, could possibly have in common with Mother Teresa for whom God was everything. With a smile that reached his eyes, he said: “We both share a love for the poor.” For her part, Mother Teresa invariably prefixed the words “My friend” before she took his name.

From the legendary Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. B.C. Roy, who first recognised her work, to the equally legendary Jyoti Basu who was always available to her when she needed him, Mother Teresa’s work in the city that was beloved of her, could not have been possible to the extent it was without their understanding and their support. It is not that the Missionaries of Charity did not spread their wings to almost 600 centres in 123 countries around the world. It is that Kolkata was her epicentre, the city she identified as her home.

On one occasion when Mother Teresa was visiting Delhi, she fell ill and had to be admitted to a city hospital. For a week that she was there, I was at her bedside and also became her link to the besieged hospital switchboard; there were no mobile phones in those days. With unfailing regularity, Jyoti Basu rang each day to enquire after her health. When I once told him that she repetitively said to me, “Let me go back to Kolkata, I will be all right there,” he laughed understandingly.

On another occasion, when she was admitted to the Woodlands Nursing Home in Kolkata, I saw him enter without fuss, meet Doctor Bardhan and the Sisters, make an enquiry and quietly leave. One of Mother Teresa’s senior-most companions, Sister Gertrude, said to me: “He does not miss a single day.”

In turn, whenever he was unwell, she would visit him in the nursing home or at his house, say a prayer and leave. The good wishes of the one and the prayers of the other complemented each other both in sickness and in health.

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