The Pope did the right thing in visiting first in Calcutta Mother Teresa‚Äôs home for the terminally ill. It would have been eve better if he had visited this before calling on the President and prime minister.
Mother Teresa‚Äôs home in Calcutta must be the most humane thing on earth. A lot of people have homes for unwanted children, or for the aged and the lonely, but to have one for those who are within hours of death speaks of great love and compassion. People who have been abandoned most of death be picked up and given a blanket and love death with a little dignity.
I also liked the way the Pope went around blessing each and every person separately. I do not believe the blessings of the Pope open the gates of heaven, or for that matter the permission for burial of the Dawoodi Bohras high priest ensure eternal peace, but to a dying beggar it could be his first and last consolation in life. And the beggars of Calcutta are more miserable than the beggars of Bombay or anywhere else.
And the best touch of all was the priest of the Kali temple next door greeting and garlanding the Pope. Love can transcend all religions.
I remember the time the present Pope‚Äôs predecessor visited Bombay. He had visited the J. J. hospital, then the car had taken him through a part of crowded Mohamedali Road and down Bellasis Road. There were thousands of Muslims, old men, standing along the route, to see him. Most of them did not know who the Pope was or what religion he represented, but they had heard he was an important religious head, that was enough.
I think that visit of the Pope to Bombay drew more crowds on the roads than the visit of any other dignitary, including Marshal Tito, who made the grandest entry into Bombay since the time of what‚Äôs his name British royal sailing into the barbour in his private yacht, then coming through a red-carpeted Gateway of India. I was present at the Gatway and I remember somebody handing me a Yugoslav flag to wave to Tito, thus spoiling the whole effect.
Queen Elizabeth was the other dignitary to draw heavy crowds on Bombay‚Äôs roads. Which could mean that Bombay honours religious heads and royalty. Even the Shah of Iran had many spectators, but they were there to see his queen and not him.