Nothing grows in the shade of a banyan tree, says the proverb. Sister Nirmala, however, proved it wrong. Mother Teresa was a huge banyan tree under which Nirmala grew up. But she, too, grew into a big tree. She was a true follower of Mother.
A positive approach towards life was her real plus point. And, what killed me was her infectious smile! Whenever I met her, she used to give a smile that would take away all my tension. There was nothing impossible for her, which she showed us in more ways than one could imagine.
My husband, Jani, and I were invited to the Vatican for Mother Teresa’s beatification. Nirmala took care of everything we needed. She saw to it personally that we got permission to attend all the functions. But what was most striking for us was that she helped us meet Pope John Paul II.
That was the biggest gift I have ever received in my life. Nirmala said “it was Mother who orchestrated everything for you through me”. I believed that, too. Otherwise, how could I meet the pope during that big event when he was very busy?
Nirmala would always make you feel at home. She always had a smile whenever I met her at the Mother House in Kolkata. She had visited our studio many a time, with Mother and even when Mother was no more.
I always cherish those days when I received her precious advice to move on in life. In fact, I will never forget her last words to me, “Move on Usha. Don’t hold on to bad feelings.” Yes sister, I will remember this.
Although she had a smiling face, she never gave in when faced with a difficult situation. While we shared a good relationship, she wrote a letter to me seven years ago, asking me to vacate the land where our studio was located, to set up a service centre for a social organisation. I was perturbed because we had the old studio for 28 years. “Don’t hang on to what is not meant for you. Maybe God has better things planned for you… trust in Jesus,” she wrote.
“Knowing that you are a special child of our Mother, the blessed Teresa of Calcutta, they approached me to request you to meet with them. Usha, I know it will be difficult for you to give up this premises, which you have used for so many years. Yet, it could be that God has something better for you. Leave yourself open to give what He takes and to take what He gives," wrote Nirmala.
And, so I did. My entire outlook got changed. I gave up the old studio and found that Jesus had a new and better one for us, just three buildings away.
Nirmala took over as head of the Missionaries of Charity when everybody thought, after Mother Teresa what, who and how? She took over and followed Mother’s path. She delivered with warmth, efficiency and stoic strength and carried out her duties in spite of not being in good health. She never let anybody down, definitely not the thousands who believed in the Missionaries of Charity. She had the biggest task to follow, but she did it most admirably. She had, in reality, the biggest shoes to fit into. But she did it so well.
Today, she is no more. We love you, Sister Nirmala, and miss your presence. Your work will live on with us, like your strong and silent personality and your loving smile.
The author is a renowned musician.