Mumbai, Sep 4 (IANS) It was in the early 1990s when Mother Teresa visited Mumbai to attend a private NGO’s function at the Y.B. Chavan Auditorium.
My boss then, Indian Express Chief Reporter D.K. Raikar looked around the department, espied me lolling around and pounced on me — “Go and cover this”.
I mildly protested that I was working on “some other story”, but Raikar, at present the Group Editor of Lokmat Media Ltd, the prestigious group of publications in Maharashtra, would have none of it and pushed me out on the assignment.
Casting an angry glance behind him, I reluctantly walked down to the venue, barely half a km away from the office in Express Towers at Nariman Point.
At the Y.B. Chavan Auditorium, I was ushered in by some young sari-clad female volunteers.
They were perhaps unaware of my current dark mood and continued to smile brightly.
Chirping sweetly, one of them escorted me to a seat in the front row, centre and with a sticker ‘Press’ — bang in full view of the dignitaries on stage — and with no escape route.
It also dawned on me in the darkness of the auditorium that I was the only reporter covering the event — all other media seats around me were unoccupied!
By now, I was resigned to my assignment and sat through the entire function lasting nearly two hours and was almost frozen in the full blast airconditioned atmosphere.
Finally, the event ended, I started thawing, and raring to rush out.
Just then, one of those chirpy, smiling volunteers hurriedly walked up to me in her high-heeled sandals and said in a charming voice: “Sir, please come Mother Teresa would like to meet you backstage”.
I again protested, saying I had to rush and file my reports, but her sweet insistence melted my dissidence, and like a sheep, I followed her, from the right entrance onto the stage.
Under the glaring arclights, I had my first-ever, close-up ‘darshan’ of Mother Teresa, in her trademark white sari with a blue border. I noticed her fair and bare wrinkled hands, her wizened old face perpetually in a sweet smile.
I kept unwaveringly staring at her in a daze. There were a couple of young persons already waiting and I was asked to join them.
Suddenly, looking at her, I felt a new enthusiastic energy inside and I looked forward to My Encounter With Mother Teresa.
My turn came and I was slightly nervous about what would be her reaction as I was introduced by the female volunteer.
Mother Teresa instantly made me comfortable with her dazzling, welcoming semi-toothless smile, her powerful grayish-green eyes gazing at me.
She beckoned me closer to her, looked up at me as I tried to bow to her level, touched me on the shoulder and asked: “What is your name, son?”
I replied and she responded: “God Bless You, My Son”.
I thanked her and mumbled how it was an honour to meet her personally, she again gave a farewell touch, I bowed in gratitude and came down the stage — barely in a few minutes.
It was a calm, soothing experience and all my earlier defiance at the assignment seemed to have disappeared. I reached office and filed my report.
Almost 25 years later, that brief but cherished encounter with Mother Teresa appears almost beyond belief — that I met and was actually touched and blessed by a future ‘Saint’.
As she was canonised by Pope Francis at the Vatican on Sunday afternoon, I felt elated and proud, yet humbled by the fact that I am among the privileged few to have been personally blessed by a holy and noble soul like Saint Teresa.