NRI Kolkatan’s Mother Teresa fixation

Mother Teresa served the poorest of the poor in Calcutta from 1929 to 1997.

KOLKATA (C.M. Paul) – I got an email from Aroup Chatterjee (398-400 Mare Street, London), the quintessential Mother Teresa critic. It was a copy of the letter he sent to The Telegraph Calcutta letters editor bemoaning Kolkata loosing out the recent cricket match to Bangalore… and the reason for Calcutta’s bad name, according to him, is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997.
It is true, Aroup Chatterjee is an NRI physician and author working in England. In his book “Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict” (2003, Meteor Books Kolkata) he accuses Mother Teresa of unfairly damaging Calcutta’s reputation. Chatterjee also claims that Mother Teresa exaggerated the work she did among the poor, that she failed to use the very large amount of money donated to her on helping the poor and that the medical care given to people in homes run by Missionaries of Charity was grossly inadequate. Chatterjee’s criticism inspired a 1994 documentary named Hell’s Angel that was shown on Channel 4, UK. The documentary was written by another well-known critic of Mother Teresa (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice, Verson, London 1995), Christopher Hitchens, who co-produced it with Tariq Ali. Chatterjee and Hitchens were the only two official hostile witnesses to Church procedures for the beatification of Mother Teresa in 2003.
This is what  a leading Indian national newspaper says announcing a competition to celebrate a day in the life of India, “Cows sunbathing on expressways. Bare-bodied sadhus on cell phones. Chappal combats in Parliament. Spitting and urinating in public places. Chaos, golmaal, jugaad… all pieces of a vast multi-cultural mosaic called India.” Read more: Let’s celebrate a day in the life of India – The Times of India

Living on Mother Teresa Sarani footpath, 2011

French Canadian but Calcutta based Indian film theory guru Gaston Roberge lists the city’s image-makers, like writer Mircea Eliade (Bengali Night) and film-maker Louis Malle (Calcutta). It has been called ‘a city of palaces,’ ‘a hell of a place’ (Joseph Lelyveld), ‘the black whole,’ a sample of the ‘sad tropics’ (Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, 1955), ‘the unintended city,’ ‘the city of the poor’ (Joy Sen) and ‘the city of joy,’ (Dominique Lapierre). ((Roberge GASTON, Images of Calcutta from Black Hole to Balck Box, in J. RACINE (Ed.), Calcutta 1981, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi 1990, 15-27.)

Aroup Chatterjee left Calcutta for London in 1985.

In addition, the phrase ‘Oh! Calcutta!’, used by a Broadway revue of that name (1969), was borrowed from the caption of a painting by French artist Trouille (1889-1975), who made a vulgar pun on its name. Neither the play nor the painting had anything to do with the city. Clovis Trouille painted a naked woman reclining on a couch, and seen from her back. The caption read: ‘Oh! Calcutta!’ (‘Oh, quell cul t’as!’ or ‘Oh, what a lovely arsehole you have!’)
Late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi called Calcutta ‘the dying city.’ Though Mother Teresa went for her first overseas visit only after 30 years of work in India, in 1960, she is maligned for Calcutta’s image as the “poverty and misery” capital of the world. Even though Mother Teresa started her work over 60 years ago, you can still get a feel of what it must have been like in those days.
Just take a walk from Chittaranjan Hospital bus stop on CIT Road, turn right at the Don Bosco Circle, walk along the Park Circus Maidan (with new wall and toilet facility) again turn right at the Park Circus 7 point crossing on to New Park Street (Mother Teresa Sarani) upto Mullick Bazar (Park Street and Lower Circular Road crossing)  any time of the day, but especially between 7 pm and 9 am! That’s where the humanity breeds, along cows and goats, bandar wallah’s monkies and poultry reared under hawker’s carts! Families still live under rows of plastic sheets, naked children play around and defecate on foot path. Don’t tell me Mother Teresa caused this! This is Park Street (supposedly elite street) in 2011. Wake up Kolkata!
This is what Khushwant Singh, in Aroup’s description “the maverick Indian journalist, raconteur, socialite and political animal (later MP)” says giving the reason for Aroup’s anti Teresa penchant. Singh reviewing Aroup’s book on Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict says: “Why did he do it? By his own admission, Mother Teresa refused to grant him an interview or answer any of his questions.”
Aroup, let’s be frank… what have you and me done for this crap city? If we can’t walk our talk, just keep our trap shut… besides, maligning the dead is not our culture!



Filed under Aroup Chatterjee, Calcutta, Kolkata, Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa

3 responses to “NRI Kolkatan’s Mother Teresa fixation

  1. From: Aroup Chatterjee
    Sent: Saturday, February 05, 2011 2:00 PM
    Subject: Fw: Letter to the ed (Cricket takes hit, 3 Feb)
    —– Forwarded Message —-
    From: Aroup Chatterjee
    Sent: Fri, 4 February, 2011 22:32:44
    Subject: Letter to the ed (Cricket takes hit, 3 Feb)
    4 Feb 11
    I am, like most Calcuttans, saddened at the shifting of the India-England cricket match from Calcutta to Bangalore. It is good that Calcuttans have woken up and taken heed of their city’s touristic potential, such as it is. I do not know who labelled Calcutta as ‘one of the world’s greatest cities’ but such an appellation is wishful thinking on your part. Personally I think so, but sadly, the world does not. The world believes that Calcutta is the cesspit of civilisation. The West does not see Calcutta as ‘Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray and Rabindranath’s city, populated by mostly poor people.’ I am sorry to disappoint Calcuttans, but precious few people in the world have heard of Ray or Tagore. The tiny number that has, see Calcutta very positively. Almost every single person on the planet has heard of Mother Teresa and believes she was the epitome of goodness and kindness; in the same token the world believes that the Calcutta is history’s ultimate hell-hole (‘gutters’) that she redeemed. Teresa and Calcutta have entered everyday speech (in all languages) as metaphors.
    You are right in pointing out that the vast majority of Calcutta’s so-called tourists are backpackers – it is also true that most these low spending visitors are ghouls who come to witness poverty as advertised by the Teresa propaganda machinery. It would be better for Calcutta if these so-called tourists did not come at all – as they go back and portray a poor image of the city in their respective countries.
    People all over the world are genuinely reluctant to come to Calcutta as they are afraid that they would catch leprosy or some unmentionable disease. Indeed, as soon as the cricket venue shifted to Bangalore, the number of British tourists going to the match doubled to more than 50,000.
    Calcuttans should have a serious discussion about the impact of Teresa on their city – it is not only on its tourism, but on its entire culture and history that the late nun has left a malign and indelible mark.
    Aroup Chatterjee
    398-400 Mare St
    London E8 1HP
    00 44 7956 363751

  2. F. Shah

    Sadly, really sadly – unlike the letters author who might not even *thought* of getting a ticket to the Eden match – Calcutta, or indeed India doesn’t need a Mother Teresa to give it a bad name… in certain areas. Because its justified. Maybe he did not follow the media during a construction debacle called the Commonwealth Games – and that was Delhi – surely, like Bangalore, associated by the author with a more splendid ambiance, which can double the number of firangs in a stadium. Beats me, then, why tourists and teams were running scared. Unlike him, we’re proud of our city – where we actually live and work – but do not shy away from accepting that there are faults – quite real ones… some of which the good nun he knows so well is responsible for correcting. While there are other fantasies in the letter, I prefer not to pick holes in weak arguments… they set enough people chuckling. And we have other things to rejoice about. Try asking that great and modern god, Google, what Calcutta is famous for… Mother Teresa who? Not first page material, ya.

  3. Suneet Sood

    Dear Mr Chatterjee, I’d like to write to you regarding your book. Please write back to me at Regards, Suneet

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