Book review: Of love, compassion and sacrifice

Published: June 16, 2011

Book: Apostle of Love — The life of Mother Teresa

Author: Rukmini Chawla

Genre: Non Fiction

Publisher: Puffin Books


“People around the world become famous for different reasons. There are prime ministers, presidents, kings, queens, actors, writers, musicians, painters, scientists — the list is endless. Despite their fame, they are not always loved. Only on rare occasions you come across someone who is not just well known but is also loved and revered. Mother Teresa was such a person.”

Rukmini Chawla, the author of the book had been associated with Mother Teresa when she was two years old. Her father, working as an Indian Administrative officer, often facilitated Mother in various administrative difficulties during her charities expansion. This gave the writer a good chance to get to know Mother personally and she ended up working voluntarily for one of her missionaries. While reading this biography, readers will be mesmerised by un-told stories of Mother Teresa’s life as Chawla brings out an insight on Mother’s extraordinary life.

When little Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in the small town of Albania in 1910, no one knew that this child would become a symbol of love for mankind. This young lady worked against all odds by serving the poor of Calcutta; in slums, on the streets and the dirtiest, most inaccessible areas. From teaching to learning to giving medical assistance, Mother would go from door-to-door asking for free food and medicines for the needy. It was because of her undying love for underprivileged people that she managed to open up 234 missionary homes in India and 490 homes around the globe that continue to remain functional even after her demise.

‘The happiest nun in the world’ as she called herself, Mother Teresa founded her first Missionary of Charity in a slum called Motijhil. Along with help from many devoted Sisters and people from all walks of life, Mother Teresa managed to open the Shishu Bhawans home for abandoned children. It was Jeevan Jyoti, a children’s home, where the writer herself volunteered and came close to Mother’s work and dedication. Most children there were orphans, disabled or abandoned by parents, but at these homes, they were loved unconditionally by the Sisters and Mother Teresa herself.

Also, one of her great humanitarian tasks lay in serving the lepers. Leprosy patients that were deserted by their own families were catered to by Mother and her fellows. This resulted in the opening of many Leprosy centres with doctors visiting to treat the victims. Mother treated them with her never-ending love and she used to say, “Our leprosy patients are very beautiful people. If they have leprosy, then that…is God’s gift. It is His way of bringing them closer to Himself.”

The book starts with a prologue by the writer and ends with an epilogue and a touching prayer by Mother Teresa. The book comprises of 14 concise chapters. Along with many touching incidents and the writer’s own experiences, this biography offers a glance at the Sisters’ lives and their daily routines. The book also contains colourful drawings of Mother Teresa by an eight-year-old Katyayani Sinha.

Exclusive to this biography, is the process of the Beatification of Mother Teresa by Pope John Paul II in Vatican. The search of a miracle treatment by Mother to declare her The Servant of God is an interesting read. Though there are numerous biographies on the life of Mother, but what makes this one unique is the writer’s own interaction with Mother Teresa, as well as incidents that many people don’t know of. Readers will feel closer to humanity as they read the life story of an ordinary human being doing extraordinary service to mankind.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2011.

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