The first time I met, or rather listened, to Mother Teresa, was at a huge meeting she was addressing at the Marina beach in Chennai in the early 1980s. I, a junior reporter, was mesmerised by the Mother’s simplicity, the brevity of her talk in an era when speakers wouldn’t just let go of the mike, her frail, diminutive person, but above all, the strength, resolve and kindness that she exuded. We reporters — it was a small group then — were privileged to be introduced to her and get her blessings.
My report began: “Wrinkles look beautiful on Mother Teresa’s face…” It was one of those occasions when words just flowed… unhindered, spontaneous. Within minutes of the copy reaching the desk of the resident editor of the Indian Express, the revered C P Seshadri, who we affectionately called ‘Master’, walked up to my desk in the reporting room holding my copy, smiled, read out the first sentence and said: “This is not prose; it is poetry”, and walked away, leaving me floating on Cloud 9. Such praise from Master was rare….
After covering another meeting of the Mother two years or so later, I met her the third time in 1993 at Loyola College, this time for an interview. She looked even frailer at 83, but the sparkle in the eye, the calm strength with which she spoke, were undiminished. The interview was short, the answers crisp and the message clear. Love, peace, prayer, the value of family life. Like always, her refrain was “The family that prays together, stays together.”
The best part of the interview was the blessing… spontaneous and generous. I came away elated, with a halo around my head, that only I could see!