The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On the wings of a prayer

Mother Teresa was the kindly light that led the destitute, the deprived and the distressed from this vale of tears to a realm radiant with light, where the balm of love helped even the wretched of the earth forget all suffering. Dressed in raiment of light oneís soul left behind all thoughts of poverty and pain and yearned for spiritual succour.

This simple truth shines through the paintings of Mother Teresa collected by H. V. Goenka, chairman of the RPG Group. The paintings in various media will be exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts from January 31.

However obliquely, Mother Teresa had, in fact, inspired H.V. Goenka to start collecting art after he acquired a painting by M.F. Husain on the Saint of the Gutters, as she is known. Ever since, H.V. Goenka has taken an avid interest in contemporary Indian art, particularly the artists from Bengal. This was how an immense collection began to grow.

Mother Teresa has also inspired the bahu of the Goenka family to take up the paintbrush. In this exhibition of 30 paintings one is an oil by Preeti, wife of Sanjiv Goenka. It is a simple painting dedicated to the simple lifestyles of the nuns of the Missionaries of Charity. The sisters in their saris with blue borders pray before the cross in a bare room. It is signed by Mother Teresa herself.

There are besides many other senior artists known all over the country. For Husain, Mother Teresa is an icon in her typical sari recognised the world over, carrying a naked baby. There is also the famous portrait of the Mother by Bikash Bhattacharjee, her face radiantly ravaged. She stands amidst the dilapidation that is Calcutta. She looks determined to save the city from a fate worse than death.

Like Husain, Sanjay Bhattacharyya picturises Mother Teresa as the Indian mother, her head covered with her pallu, saving human beings from the dark night of the soul. Paritosh Sen sees the peasant woman in her, obviously a reference to her origin in Albania. Her hands and features are as coarse as those of a farmhand from her own country. Shahabuddin from Bangladesh paints her as a woman in white with her back to her viewers against a backdrop of white.

Yusuf Arakkal paints her as a jagged profile with sepia tints. Samir Mondalís watercolour shows Mother Teresa wearing a heavy garland, her face as vivid as in a photograph.

Predictably, Paresh Maity is here. Two little boys peer at her through the window of a hovel. Mother Teresa always thought that poverty was not such a bad thing after all. It sanctifies the soul the same way that fire is used to purify base ores and extract metals. Shuvaprasanna depicts her as an angel saving the souls of babies. The anodyne of love can work wonders. She painted her in black and white.

There are several artists in Calcutta who would perhaps have remained in oblivion throughout their careers unless they struck upon the idea of painting Mother Teresa. There are the works of several such artists on display here. Among them are Ritu Singh and Sanatan Dinda who were quite unknown in Calcutta before they began to show their Mother Teresas.

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