Wed, Oct 15, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Calcutta celebrates life of Mother Teresa

PILGRIMAGE Tourists from all around the world are now flying into the city to pay homage to the nun whose aid to orphans and outcasts put her on the road to sainthood

AFP , CALCUTTA, INDIA

Indian artist Rabindranath Ghosh puts the finishing touches to a clay model of Mother Teresa for display at an Indian curio shop in Calcutta. The city that Mother Teresa called home is planning to celebrate her beatification in Rome next week with prayers, the screening of films on her life and a procession by street children.

PHOTO: AFP

The city of Calcutta, which Albanian-born Roman Catholic Mother Teresa regarded as her home, remembers her fondly and is planning to celebrate her beatification with prayers, the screening of films on her life and a procession by street children.

The mayor of Calcutta, Subrata Mukherjee, said the bustling city was being beautified in anticipation of an influx of tourists to celebrate Sunday's event.

"Civic employees are working round the clock to give Calcutta a festive look as tourists from across the world are flying into the city to pay homage at Mother Teresa's tomb," he told reporters.

Masons were meanwhile busy filling cracks in the walls of the three-storied headquarters of Missionaries of Charity (MOC) -- ?the order Mother Teresa founded in 1950.

"The building is being spruced up to mark the occasion," Sister Christie of Missionaries of Charity said as workers slapped paint on the walls of the building.

A giant television screen was to be set up at the city's biggest park adjacent to the Missionaries of Charity building where people could gather to see the beatification ceremony telecast live from the Vatican on Sunday.

Residents spoke lovingly of the nun who put their city on the map.

"Mother has made our city famous," said 50-year-old Ramesh Ahuja, who owns a curio shop in Chowringhee Road in the heart of the east Indian city.

"She was instrumental in a lot of orphan children getting good homes -- ?by sending them for adoption in India and abroad," he said.

Ahuja sells small figurines of Mother Teresa, which he said are great favorites among Indian and foreign visitors to Calcutta, where the nun worked among the poor and destitute for five decades.

"The statues cost 20 rupees to 200 rupees (US$0.41 to US$4) and we sell about 50 pieces a month," he said.

Ahuja's neighbor, 53-year-old Suresh Chabbria, described Mother Teresa as a "living goddess who worked for humanity.

"She made a great contribution to society. She was also a very humble and loving person."

Mother Teresa's work and fame was also drawing tourists into Calcutta which was helping the economy, he said.

"At present the main attraction in Calcutta is Mother Teresa. She is the one pulling in the tourists. When she becomes a saint, Calcutta will become a pilgrimage center," he said.

Papiya Chatterjee, a professional beautician, said she would remember Mother Teresa as a "great social worker."

"She opened homes for the orphans and tried to give some relief to the old," she said.

Dilip Das, a 40-year-old taxi driver said Mother Teresa "did a great deal for us and for Calcutta as a whole."

Narrating a personal experience, Das said his brother, who was suffering from tuberculosis 10 years ago, was given medication by a mobile clinic run by the MOC.

"Without their help, my brother wouldn't have survived," Das said.

Ashok Mitra, a garment factory worker, said he would remember Mother Teresa for her "selfless service to the people of Bengal."

"It's not an easy job to care for the sick who are not your own, to love children who are not your own flesh and blood and the destitute whom you pick up from the streets -- especially in a foreign country."

Archbishop Lucas Sircar of Calcutta said the Catholic world was celebrating the beatification, "Thanking God for sending such a person as Mother Teresa to us."

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