COLOMBO: An epitome of simplicity and piety, Mother Teresa went about barefoot even in the biting cold of Beijing, recalled A.Natarajan, India’s Consul General in Jaffna, while speaking at a talk given by the Mother’s biographer, Navin Chawla, in Jaffna on Friday.
Reminiscing on his encounter with Mother Teresa in December 1995 at Beijing, where he was an officer in the Indian High Commission, Natarajan said that she had refused to stay in a five star hotel and preferred to be put up in a ordinary women’s hostel. And at the end of her visit, when Natarajan went to the hostel at 4 am to take her to the airport to catch the flight back to India, she emerged from the room barefooted when the temperature even inside was well below zero. The room she had occupied was uncarpeted and freezing, but that had made no difference whatsoever to the Mother.
A couple of more surprises awaited Natarajan. The Mother declined to take the lift and also politely refused to accept any help to carry her luggage. She walked down four floors lugging two bags.
Navin Chawla, former Indian Election Commissioner, and a long time associate of Mother Teresa, said in his talk on secularism, that Mother Teresa was truly secular despite being a Christian missionary. Though a devout Catholic, she agreed to accept him, a Hindu, as her official biographer because she believed that religiosity transcended human divisions, Chawla said.
The leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R.Sampanthan, who also spoke, emphasized the need for enshrining secularism in Sri Lanka’s new constitution. Since 1972, Sri Lanka’s constitutions have said that Buddhism shall occupy the foremost place in the country.
A large and distinguished gathering, including a number of clergymen and sisters from Mother Teresa’s institutions in the Northern Province, attended the lecture.