A Chance Meeting with the Future Saint Teresa


While she was in boarding school in Amravati, Maharashtra, Ranjana Martinez had a chance meeting with Mother Teresa in 1966. Martinez now lives in San Antonio, Texas.

By Ranjana Martinez

SAN ANTONIO: I had the privilege of meeting Mother Teresa when she came to my school, the Holy Cross Convent in Amravati, Maharashtra in 1966. Since I was the school band Captain, Mother Superior asked me to round up as many band members as possible. She asked us to hurriedly get dressed in our band uniform, get our equipment and head for the entrance of the school. “A very important dignitary is coming and we have to give her a warm welcome,” she said.

We marched out of the school gates, stood in two lines on either side of the road and waited. We were warming up and practicing the tunes, when there was a flutter, a commotion that she was arriving soon. We started playing “Sarey jahaan se acha” followed by “Yankee Doodle,” as we walked down the road with her. We stopped at the main entrance of the house her congregation built for the abandoned and unwanted babies and adults.

“You did this for me?” she asked, very happy. “Yes, Mother,” I replied. “We do this for all the dignitaries who come to our Convent.”  “I am not a dignitary,” she said humbly, taking my hand in hers. “Thank you very much. Your uniforms are so nice and colorful and you played beautiful,” she told us girls.

Then she turned to me and asked my name and where I came from. She knew this was a boarding school and we girls came from many cities and states of India. “My name is Ranjana Adhikari and I came from Calcutta,” I replied. “We are five sisters living in the boarding school. My father is in the army and he just got transferred there.” “Oh, I know your mother Meena Adhikari,” Mother said excitedly. “She helps me in my clinic. She is very good with the patients. She asked me to check up on her five daughters when I told her I was going to Holy Cross Convent in Amravati and to open the new building for our Sisters.  How are you sisters doing? What are their ages? She will be very happy that I met you.” I told her we were all happy and fine and the youngest sister Ruby was 10 years old, Deepa was 12, Aruna 14, Purnima 15 and I was 16.

All this while, Mother held my hands playing with them. I noticed that her hands were hard and rough like a farmer’s hands. I hesitated at first but picked up the courage to ask “Mother, why are your hands so cracked and dry?”  Silly me! I was from Northern India and we all used creams to prevent bleeding from chapped, dry skins in winter. Very sweetly she explained “We Sisters are given only two sarees for the whole year and a pair of sandals. We do not use any creams and powders.

We use the money for the poor.” I said thank you, hoping I had not offended her.

She then said goodbye and headed to the new building. The priests, nuns and other officials were awaiting her arrival to bless and open the home.

Later that year, during our holidays in Calcutta, I told my mother about meeting Mother Teresa. My mother smiled and told me that Mother Teresa told her about me, my sisters, the band baja welcome and how happy she was with us.

I asked my mother about the clinic. Her face became serious and sad. She said that Mother and her sisters and volunteers would pick up and bring humans who were beyond recognition into their house. “They were so thin and filthy and dying.

They looked like dirty rags, like cardboard.” I was confused. “How can they be in such a terrible state?”  My mother repeated what Mother explained to her. “The poor people have no place to go but to the streets. They sleep there. When they get sick and cannot move, they lie down on the foot path and get covered with dust and muddy rain water splashed by passing cars. They look like cardboard and pieces of muddy, dirty rags. They get kicked by pedestrians who don’t notice them.”

We lived in Fort William at that time and did not notice this area of Calcutta. But my mother always liked to help the needy, the poor and disadvantaged and in doing so, also found Mother Teresa.