Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa are India’s pride and envy of the world. They were the ultimate symbols of harmony, humanism and compassion in a world driven by conflict, politics, religion, gender, greed, money power and much else.
If Lord Buddha got his enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi tree, then it was the train, the common man’s mode of transport, that enlightened Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
Gandhi had relocated to South Africa from Bombay in 1893. On June 7, 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the real name of Mahatma Gandhi), then a young barrister, was on his way from Durban to Pretoria by train. When the train came to a stop at Pietermaritzburg, Gandhi was ordered by the conductor to move from the first-class carriage (reserved for white passengers) to the van compartment for lower-class travelers. When Gandhi refused, showing the conductor his first-class ticket, he was evicted unceremoniously from the train.
Mother Teresa was sent for her annual retreat to the Loreto Convent in Darjeeling. During this train journey, on Sept. 10, 1946, she had a mystical encounter with Christ. In this encounter, which she later referred to as the “call within a call”, Christ urged her to give up all and follow him into the slums to serve him and the poorest of the poor. “Come be my light, go amongst them, and carry me with you into them.” This call within a call led to the establishment of the congregation of the Missionaries of Charity for sisters, brothers, fathers and laypeople and her lifetime of work for the poor and destitute across the world.