Mother Teresa, the Chemistry Nobel and more Indian stories

Mother Teresa, the Chemistry Nobel and more Indian stories
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First Published: Fri, Oct 23 2009. 10 21 PM IST

World citizen: On 19 October, Albanians lit candles in front of a bronze statue of Mother Teresa to commemorate the day of her beatification. Gent Shkullaku / AFP
World citizen: On 19 October, Albanians lit candles in front of a bronze statue of Mother Teresa to commemorate the day of her beatification. Gent Shkullaku / AFP
Updated: Fri, Oct 23 2009. 10 21 PM IST
What do Mother Teresa and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan have in common? Besides the fact that they’ve both been the recipients of Nobel prizes, I mean. Ramakrishnan won this year’s Chemistry Nobel and Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
In the past fortnight, Indians have staked their claim on both.
World citizen: On 19 October, Albanians lit candles in front of a bronze statue of Mother Teresa to commemorate the day of her beatification. Gent Shkullaku / AFP
Ramakrishnan’s having none of it. In a brilliant interview to news agency PTI, he said he was fed up of the sudden flood of emails from Indians. Ramakrishnan, a US citizen, denied that heever went to school in Chidambaram, where he was born. He left the Tamil Nadu town at the age of 3, he said. “There are people who have never bothered to be in touch with me for decades who suddenly feel the urge to connect. I find this strange,” he said. Ramakrishnan said that it was good if the Nobel made more people read about his work but the fact that he was of Indian origin was of very little importance.
Of course it’s always nice to feel that connection with someone larger than life. A recent poll by Austrian Times found that Arnold Schwarzenegger is believed to be the most influential Austrian since 1945. When Mint was launched, many of us signed on because we thought it was cool that its then editor Raju Narisetti had made it on the international scene and now wanted to try something new back home.
The US was born from migration and has always attracted people from all over the world who got fame and recognition after they became American citizens. In India we can still count the famous “outsiders” on our fingertips.
But I digress. While we wasted no time claiming Ramakrishnan as ours, we think it’s outrageous that Albania’s staking a claim on Mother Teresa. She’s ours, we firmly believe. Didn’t we give her an Indian passport, even a Bharat Ratna (one year after she won the Nobel)? Why should we agree to the Albanian request that her remains be buried near her mother and sister before her 100th birthday next year? We, who in 2004 protested the “foreign origin” of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi when she was set to become prime minister of this country.
Of course, it’s not like Mother Teresa’s birthplace is in Albania any longer. Skopje, where she was born, now falls in neighbouring Macedonia though nobody can disagree that she’s loved as much in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo as she is in Kolkata and the Vatican.
Personally I don’t believe Mother Teresa would have cared where she was buried. As she famously said: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” Mother Teresa did her bit for India while she was living. In her death, Albania probably needs her more than us.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Oct 23 2009. 10 21 PM IST