The 4th of September 2016, Mother Teresa was declared as a saint in Vatican. She will from today be called the Saint Teresa of Calcutta. We hear of celebrations in Kolkata, Vatican, and the hundreds of Missionaries of Charity centres across the world. I have such mixed feelings about this canonization. I am of course delighted that none other than the Pope of the Catholic Church is bestowing her this honour considering she had the courage to leave her convent in 1976 although she had taken a vow never to leave it. I have heard from the some of the early nuns, some of who are no more, about her inner turmoil and struggle to leave the Loreto Convent. I too was a Loreto student and studied in the Loreto Covent in Darjeeling where Mother Teresa started one of her earliest centres. That was the beginning of my volunteering days with Mother Teresa. I volunteered with her for seven years in Kolkata right through college and higher studies. I was just one of the many volunteers she had but she was the one amongst many for me.Amidst all these celebrations I wonder what would Mother Teresa say if she was alive. She truly demonstrated selfless service and had no personal benefit in mind when she would roll up her sleeves to take away the maggots one by one from an infected wound of a dying man. I have seen her do that so often in Nirmal Hriday, a hospice that she started in her early days to tend to the sick and abandoned people in Kolkata. There were hundreds of patients with terminal illnesses like cancer and sometimes very infectious diseases as well. This centre actually smelled of death but you could never believe that when you saw the tenderness with which Mother Teresa would speak and handle the dying. I know Mother had no ambition of recognition and awards, leave alone canonization, when she served the poor. Her only ambition was to make people around her feel love. Mother Teresa was such an antithesis to the images one creates when one hears about a world leader. She barely had any physical presence…I will always remember her as a diminutive, bent and wrinkled figure, shuffling around in her large sandals. She was a leader who had none of the qualities that a traditional leader is expected to have. She was so soft-spoken that it was sometimes difficult to hear her. She was never good at oratory but whenever she spoke there was a pin drop silence. Her eyes were soft and kind and not the piercing eyes that leaders are reputed to have. I believe she was the best CEO I have ever worked for because she had thousands of us doing things for her without her ever asking us to do it. But she was not at all conscious of her image and the impact she had on people. I remember when I had taken one of my friends from Denmark to meet her; she was quite shocked that Sonja had come all the way from Europe just to meet her. She thought all that was so unnecessary. I remember that even when I would go to Nirmal Hriday during the weekends, which was adjacent to the iconic Hindu Kalighat temple, I would hear the rumble of criticism about her. She has been criticized for hobnobbing with tyrants, for taking photographs with political leaders but mostly for “converting” the dying with her Christian prayer. I would be often asked if that was true. I of course saw her pray with and for the dying. It was the most poignant and serene sight. I don’t think Mother was ever conscience or even aware of the religion of the sick she tended. To her it was the suffering that mattered. Her prayer brought calmness around all of us and many times the patient died with a smile. I learnt from Mother that the best gift one can give anyone is the sense of dignity and that does not require any money or material wealth. And so I sit here wondering what would Mother Teresa do to see all the “tamasha” to use her own words, around her canonization today? I think she would just quietly kneel down and pray.
Founder Shukla Bose was invited to deliver the keynote speech at this year’s HPAIR (The Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations) in Hong Kong. The issues addressed covered a wide spectrum of subjects from humanity’s most urgent needs to its very paramount of aspirations. The aim of the conference was to empower delegates to make a difference in the communities around them and the world as a whole to create a movement of change.Shukla Bose shared the stage as a keynote speaker along with eminent dignitaries including Sir James Mirrlees (Nobel Prize winner), and had the opportunity to interact with several other invitees and hosts including Audrey Kitagawa, President of International Academy of Transcultural Cooperation (Seen here in the picture) and Daniel Trust, a Rwandan genocide survivor and the CEO of the Daniel Trust Foundation.
In the month of July, we got to know that Parikrma had been nominated for the CNBC Digitizing India Award 2016 in the category of Digital Innovations driving Social Impact. This award was a collaboration of CNBC and Cisco and aimed at recognizing and celebrating the digital transformational journey of entities across corporate India and government institutions. It was amazing to be recognized at the national platform. Because our numbers are few as compared to the millions of beneficiaries that many other entities serve, we never thought that we would be at all eligible for such an honour. Parikrma was conceptualized with a focus on quality and on “how well” a job is done and not on “how many”. So, keeping that in mind to have grown to 4 schools, a Junior College and a Teacher Training Centre serving about 1700 children and nearly 20,000 in the communities, seems to us a large number to manage although it may pale as compared to the needs in our country. We have never tried to compete with other NGOs that are doing an amazing job serving millions of children every day. In fact, I have great good will, respect and tons of admiration for such NGOs. But we are different and that is our strength.So, when I got the mail from the Managing Editor of CNBC inviting us to go to Delhi to receive the award on the 15th July, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was in a bit of shock, to be honest. I was also very touched when the organisers invited two of our students to travel to Delhi as well. In a business forum like this no one is that thoughtful. So I decided to take Amruteshwar from our Nandini Layout School who scored 97% in his Board exam and Pavithra from our Sahakaranagar School who scored more than 94%. It was just perfect, one girl and a boy. And it was the best incentive we could ever think of giving our high achievers. But Parikrma’s celebration is never complete if we do not acknowledge the key architects of our success, our teachers. So I decided to push our luck and take along Kalpana Singh who has been the longest serving, highly motivated, supremely committed teacher for the last 13 years. She is today the Head of Academic Administration and knows the names of all our children from nearly 72 slums and 4 orphanages and every student that has graduated from Parikrma in the last six years and which college they are studying in and where they are working. This event was held at the Taj Palace and the first such experience for our two kids. Amruteshwar’s mother is a sweeper in the Corporation and Pavithra’s father is an office peon. For both of them every single moment starting from the flight, plush hotel, grand buffet and meeting all the VIPs was an event that will always be etched in their memories and shape the days to come. Thank you Cisco and CNBC.But it does not end there. Kalpana and I decided to take them sightseeing in Delhi the next day. They saw the Red Fort, the Qutub Minar, the Parliament and Rastrapathi Bhavan. It was such a wondrous experience for me to view these sights through the eyes of children. I took a pause and thought to myself about how blessed I was to get this award because of the hard work of so many Parikrma members back home, to see the old sights of Delhi through the unblinking eyes of children and share it with someone like Kalpana who I have always counted on. The award was for digital innovations in education that will change the trend of learning, in a historic city like Delhi and poised to be taken forward by future generations of children that will come out of Parikrma who will redefine the meaning of equality, success and responsibility.Parikrma has really made hope work.
Parikrma Runners Club won 2 Golds, 3 sliver and 6 bronze at the Taluk Level Athletic Meet this month. The best part yet? Four of our students have qualified for District level. As they gear up, we never stop doing what we do best - more practice and more encouragement!