Undying Spirit of 12-Yr-Old Agnes That Brought Her Nobel at Age of 69
This is a remarkable story of a woman named Agnes Bojaxhiu. Born in Macedonia in Southeast Europe, she was an Indian citizen but was revered by the world for devoting her entire life to work selflessly for the poor and suffering.
Her father died of an unknown sudden illness when she was eight-year-old and by the tender age of 12, she had decided that she would commit herself towards a religious life. At the age of 18, she joined Sisters of Loreto, Ireland and this was the last time she saw her family. Within a few months, she moved to Darjeeling, learnt Bengali and started teaching at a school.
After 20 years of service in the school, Agnes was promoted to the post of headmistress but there was something bothering her tremendously which changed the course of her life. She was deeply pained by the poverty and sickness that she saw in India. The Bengal Famine of 1943, which was set in the backdrop of World War II in the British ruled India, painted her surroundings in the horrific color of death. More than 40 lakh people in Bengal alone died of starvation, malnutrition and diseases.
“There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love”
The famine also caused major economic and social disruption, ruining millions of families. This plunged Agnes into horror and despair. It was then that she decided to dedicate her life to work for the poor, homeless and needy. In August 1948, donning the blue-and-white sari that she would wear in public for the rest of her life, she left her convent life behind. This was the beginning of, what history now calls, the birth of Mother Teresa. Armed with six months of basic medical training, she entered into Calcutta’s slums.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Those early years were full of challenges for her. For days, she would simply visit chemist shops and beg them for medicines that she would then give to the poor and slum dwellers. Cleanliness was another thing that she regarded highly. At her residence, she used to scrub the floors herself and wash the stairs every night. She lived an austere life, take ordinary meals but like children, she loved sweets, lozenges and candies. Sometimes she used to eat candies after meals, sometimes in the evening after prayers.
Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Writer’s note: As I penned down this article on the 106th birth anniversary of Mother Teresa, I felt extremely humbled learning about her life’s journey. Researching and writing about the saint was a transforming experience and I hope the readers, too, draw inspiration from the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and work towards making this world a better and happier place for the generations to come.