Dr. Ali's visit to  historic Loreto Convent of Kolkata

loretobuildingDr. Ali Khwaja was invited by the historic Loreto Convent of Kolkata, from where Mother Teresa began her journey of caring for the poor, to conduct a training programme for students and teachers. For  over four days, he trained the wonderful children of the school in life skills, study methodology, career planning, and values of life. Additionally, a teachers workshop was conducted to motivate and enlighten the faculty in understanding child behavior. During his stay, he visited "Mother House" of Mother Teresa, and these are his reminiscences:

"Kolkata is full of narrow by-lanes that keep pouring large chunks of humans, cargo and animals in and out of them. One such small lane, hardly visible from the main road, not much cleaner than its other counterparts, is where one encounters a stone building, and a small door with a fading little wooden signboard reading "M. Teresa, MC". The sliding plate that reads "In" and "Out," is permanently kept in the "In" position. Near the door leaned a mentally challenged girl in bedraggled clothes, drawling "Good morning" to everyone who was coming in.

I entered a little hesitatingly, almost expecting to bump into Mother Teresa herself, her presence was so strong. What I saw was so many other nuns of Missionaries of Charity, who had the same serenity and calmness on their faces, as I had seen on Mother's face when I last met her twenty years ago.

Her tomb is in a small hall – a granite slab, some flowers, candles burning, and her photograph. Nothing else. But the serenity is something to be experienced, not something to be written about. There is no sorrow, there is no death. Her aura pervades all around, just as it does in the campus of Loreto Convent. I stayed in that quiet campus which overlooks the slum that stirred Mother's heart and made her come out into the streets. I slept soundly, as though I had come back to my own mother's home, with no worries about the morrow..... "

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Leading Banjara Academy's online email counselling team of volunteer-counsellors, I realize it is not an easy task reaching out to a person one has never met, never seen, without the added advantage of gestures, eye contact, a gentle reassuring touch, tone of voice and yet providing empathy, positive strokes, making the person feel heard and understood.

With the aid of only written words, it is quite a task building trust, making people open up and share and helping them cope and feel better. So when in many instances they write back saying thank you and that they feel so much better, the feeling one gets is priceless and incomparable - knowing one has done something right, something good!

Hats off to all the volunteeer-counsellors of Banjara Academy who have been carrying on this work silently, anonymously for the last couple of years. Truly commendable! - Ali Khwaja

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