27 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 40

Saints needed now

From Apratim Ray Sir: Anne Sebba (`Go straight to Heaven', 20 September) calls Mother Teresa Calcutta's best brand without explaining why. In so far as brand is meant to create an identity that attracts honour and advantage, Mother Teresa can hardly be called Calcutta's best, having portrayed the city as a hell-hole over her long career.

Providing proper medical care was never her purpose, for that would have actually alleviated suffering instead of showcasing it, and would have shorn away from her work the sense of nobility that she attached to it. A first-hand account of the lack of even rudimentary medical facilities at Mother Teresa's homes can be found in a recent book (Mother Teresa, The Genius of Calcutta, Pranoti Publishing House, Calcutta. 2003) by Sally Warner, a trained nurse from Melbourne who worked with the Missionaries of Charity for many years.

Neither Mother Teresa nor her organisation has ever been seen to provide succour to people affected by natural calamities. There are many social service organisations in India, both secular and belonging to Hindu religious sects, which do much more service with much less tom-tomming.

Beset by controversies surrounding wayward priests, the Roman Catholic Church is in urgent need of figures to which it — indeed the faith itself — can point with pride. And no, someone from 600 years ago will not do. Priests with paedophilia are recent; so the saints have to be recent too. Hence the hurry.

Apratim Ray

Calcutta, India

From Dr Aroup Chattetlee

Sir: Anne Sebba has judged Calcutta's sentiments towards Mother Teresa wrongly,

as can be expected from a passing Westerner. Calcutta has some regard for Teresa, primarily because she is a Western icon — Indians (in India) have a deep sense of cultural insecurity and look up to Western icons. She does have supporters in the city, most of them in the upper classes, such as the multi-millionaire Kumars.

Aroup Chatterjee

Buntingford, Hertfordshire