“The Saint I Knew”
By Gladys Saldanha, Teacher, force behind DGP Saldanha, Nurturer...

 
 

 

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“She was small made, had a wizened face, and would walk very fast… pat-pat, pat-pat, pat-pat… her chappals would go. She was immensely humble. A virtue that most saw and talk about. She had another side. She was practical and decisive. At the home and in the broader world, she knew exactly what to do. ‘Go meet that bureaucrat, talk to that MLA.’ She’d say.

“I knew Mother Teresa and helped her set up her caring home in Hyderabad in the early 80’s.

“Mother Teresa had just been granted a generous parcel of land, with dilapidated buildings on it, by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Sri Chenna Reddy.

“Neela D’Souza, Ranjini Subramaniam & I, all bureaucrat wives,  helped The Mother smooth the way with the Government, and helped the Hyderabad centre grow.  Most helpful was Arjun Rao, then the Commissioner of… {the municipality, I think}. He was instrumental in getting the wall built, essential as all unsavoury characters had used the land as their adda. The wall in those days cost several lakhs, which in today’s money,  is several crores...

“Mother Teresa inspired us. For example, Nila kept an abandoned child in her ‘own’ home for several months and then facilitated her adoption.

“I can tell terrible stories, they used to pick these people up from the roads… babies… children who were maggot eaten… women and men, often so brutalized they were beyond despair… Hair matted… clothes falling apart… sometimes you could barely tell them as human… The first thing we’d often do was put them in a tank and hose them down…

 “I spent several years, going week after week, helping out… I used to get tins of biscuits, spectacles, bought clothes… for the home… Sometimes even radios… But no, NO TV's. Mother Teresa didn’t believe in Televisions… thinking it would distract the nuns and workers…

“It was heart-warming and gut-wrenching… “A lady in the home, would keep saying that her brother had a store and a big house and he’d take her back, she had just got lost… On the way before Diwali, Ranjini and I took the old lady and found her brother’s house, it was a modest cement house with a ka-ka shop below. The next day, on Diwali day morning, the brother dropped her back.  According to the broken-hearted old lady her brother brought her back as he said he had only one bathroom and no one to take his sister to the bathroom…”

“Working for Mother Teresa’s home we saw the best and worst of humanity…    we saw tears of joy in people picked out of sewers and we saw horror… We saw a woman…a saint who lead us by example to be what we truly are… lights.”

 
 

 
 

Gladys Saldanha addressing a gathering with The AP Governor, Kumud Ben Joshi.