14, Creek Lane all but forgotten on Mother Teresa’s birthday

August 26th, 2010 - 5:40 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sirshendu Panth
Kolkata, Aug 26 (IANS) As the world saluted Mother Teresa on her birth centenary Thursday, the three-storey house in Kolkata from where the selfless nun’s Missionaries of Charity began its arduous journey was all but forgotten.

The top floor where the nun founded her congregation was locked, there was no trace of any visitor or even a plaque to remind the world about the piece of history that ticks away in the shabby old building.

It seemed like any other day at 14, Creek Lane in central Kolkata.

“No we are yet to get any visitors. Earlier a lot of people used to come everyday. When she died in 1997 we almost had no time to eat or rest, such was the rush of followers and the media,” Francis Raju Gomes told IANS.

Francis’ maternal grandfather Alfred Gomes and the latter’s brother Michael Gomes had invited Mother Teresa to set up base on the top floor of the house in 1948 after she got the nod from the church to move out of Lorreto Convent and start her own order.

The Mother lived in this house, located in the dingy lane, from 1948 to 1953, and established a chapel in the big hall and four surrounding rooms given to her.

Alfred and Michael became very close to the Mother, who would consult them on a lot of matters.

“The initial days were full of struggle. Mother used to take the two brothers with her as she went to every chemist shop in the locality begging for medicines for the poor sick people in the slums. She did not have money. So often she went without food. But she withstood such hardship smilingly,” Francis’ mother Margaret told IANS.

Soon, inspired by her indomitable spirit, young girls started joining the Mother. In 1950, with 12 sisters by her side, Mother Teresa started the Missionaries of Charity.

“They were all very cheerful and committed to the cause. We would often hear them giggle. At times we would hear they had a food shortage. I remember my father sending cake, sweets and other food upstairs,” she said.

In 1952, the Mother opened her first home for the dying destitute at Kalighat near the famous Kali temple. She named it Nirmal Hriday or Pure Heart.

However, as more sisters joined, Mother Teresa had to look out for a bigger place to house her congregation. In 1953, she moved to a two-storey house on Lower Circular Road. It is now called Mother House, the order’s global headquarters.

But her close contact with 14, Creek Lane and its residents continued. Alfred died in the 1960s. Michael lived up to the ripe old age of 92, and died in 2000, three years after the Mother passed away. His wife Agnes died in 2004.

The mother considered Michael one of her confidants. She would often bring gifts for him from abroad. “I have gone to the Mother House carrying his letters so many times. Within a few days Mother would drop by, and the two would talk for a long time on various projects for the poor and the old,” said Francis, who stays with his parents in the groundfloor.

The Mother never forgot the support she got from the Gomes in her difficult times.

“She helped my father by arranging lawyers when he had problems with a tenant. Her calming influence helped in sorting out property disputes in our house,” said Francis’ sister Cecilia Gomes, who lives on the first floor.

The Mother had also recommended Francis for a hotel job. “And I got it. Though I decided to join somewhere else,” he said.

In his will, Michael is said to have donated the second floor to the Missionaries of Charity. “The sisters come here periodically, take the key to the floor from one of our relatives, open the rooms, clean up and hold mass,” Francis said.

The floor again remains locked.

Ireland native Grainne Coughlan, who came to the city a month back to teach at the Lorreto Convent and stayed as a guest with Cecilia, had little idea about the importance of the house.

“I have been told that she lived here. But frankly speaking, I don’t have any feeling about it. It seems trivial,” said the young girl.

The place also bears a black plate put up by Michael which restricts the visiting hours for the second floor. “There used to be a stream of visitors who would constantly knock, so he had to resort to this as he was old.”

But how would Michael have known that one day locked rooms would need no such notices.

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