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'Mother Teresa harmed Kolkata's image'

Source: PTI
October 16, 2003 14:27 IST
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Raising a voice of dissent as the world prepares to celebrate Mother Teresa's beatification on October 19, a doctor, who had deposed before an inquiry into the Mother's life, on Thursday said she did 'more harm than good' to the image of the City of Joy.

"It seems to me that she needed the city more than it needed her," Aroup Chatterjee, a Kolkata-born doctor settled in
England, told PTI from London.

"Ever since I went to England and travelled to other countries in the West, people looked upon me as an oddity - a doctor from the world's ultimate hell-hole," Chatterjee said.

Also see: Govt delegation for Mother Teresa's beatification

Persistent confrontations with his native city's negative image in the West prompted Chatterjee to write Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, a treatise on the activities of the Missionaries of Charity and its founder.

Kolkata's negative image was the result of persistent media coverage of Mother Teresa and the activities of the Missionaries of Charity that depicted the Nobel laureate nun as the ultimate saviour of a city teeming with leprosy patients, he said.

Even small Western businesses did not scout in Kolkata because of its negative image, which neither the Mother nor her organisation made any attempt to allay, Chatterjee alleged.

"When a businessman friend from Kolkata came visiting me in London, one of my neighbours, a Polish lady, took half a day off from work just to see my friend. She was a Teresa devotee and could not believe there could be a businessman in Kolkata," he said.
Chatterjee's book, which has been received well in the West, deals with the process of creation of  'myths' around Mother Teresa, her accounting policies, her politics, her relationship with Kolkata, views from within her charity homes, profiles of Kolkata's destitute based on extensive interviews and a comparison of her organisation's work with that of other religious and secular charities.

"I wrote the book to set the record straight since I realised that admiration for Mother Teresa is based less on facts and more on the domino effect of myth making. She was a lover of poverty, rather than the poor. She once said to a woman in pain: Jesus is loving you," he said.
Encouraged by the success of his book, Chatterjee is in the process of creating a network of sympathisers who would
work in projecting the reality that Kolkata is not all slums, leper colonies and hunger and that Mother Teresa's is not the
only charity organisation working in the metropolis.

An avowed atheist, Chatterjee has no objection to the Mother being beatified or canonized in keeping with Roman Catholic laws. "She subscribed to a religious point of view and it is up to the clergy of that religion to decide what to do
with her. I myself am not against her becoming a saint. I said this in my deposition in London on January 3 and 4, 2001."

Though Chatterjee's book has earned accolades in the West, his views do not go down well with the Catholic clergy in Kolkata associated with Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity.

Pointing out that while reviewing the book, journalist-writer Khushwant Singh had observed that it was "hard on facts, but weak on judgement," Fr C M Paul, Church spokesman for the celebration committee of Mother's beatification, says: "I fully agree with [Singh's] views. Chatterjee does not seem to use his intelligence and common sense. He quotes facts out of context to arrive at weird judgements."

Describing Chatterjee as a bull in a china shop, Paul said: "No one has the licence to misinterpret or judge with malicious intent the well-intentioned acts of others if the person judging cannot commit himself to such good acts."

Fr Gason Roberge, Jesuit priest and professor of mass communication and videography at St Xavier's College, admits that some of the poverty of Kolkata was known to the West through media reports about Mother Teresa and her activities. "Yet such reports focused on an area which no one can deny."

According to Fr Roberge, Mother Teresa's appeal to the West lay in her radical reading of the Gospels and using them as a spiritual basis to serve the poor.

"Her unconditional charity complemented the Western idea of development which envisages making the poor partners in
development. Besides, she touched the conscience of the West by working for the poor. The fact that she was a woman, a Christian and a Westerner integrated into the Indian mainstream also enhanced her appeal," Fr Roberge said.

Also see: Vatican not to exhume Mother Teresa's body

Column: Arvind Lavakare -- A saint vs a patriot

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