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Calcutta slum dwellers grieve for Mother Teresa

Philomena Maiti

'Now who will care for us?'

September 10, 1997
Web posted at: 7:44 p.m. EDT (2344 GMT)

From Correspondent Anita Pratap

CALCUTTA, India (CNN) -- For the past five days, 72-year old Philomena Maiti has cried herself to sleep. Mother Teresa, the woman she knew for 50 years, is dead.

"Now who will care for us?" she asks. "When Mother was here, we felt wanted, we felt loved."

Maiti lives in a Calcutta slum called Moti Jheel, where Mother Teresa began her work half a century ago, caring for the poor, the sick, the starving and the illiterate.

Images of the first slum Mother Teresa went to when she began to chart her unique course.
video icon 859K/24 sec. QuickTime slideshow (no sound)

Perhaps 35,000 people live in Moti Jheel now, and many of them have Mother Teresa to thank for changing their lives. Palton Rai was 4 when he enrolled in Mother Teresa's school.

Palton Rai

"She gave us a good foundation," he said. "We learned to interact with people. I got a job easily."

The free school Mother Teresa started in Moti Jheel will continue to do her work. Children are taught English along with the local language -- Bengali -- ethics and hygiene. They also receive food and medicine.

"If we didn't turn up at school, Mother would come looking for us at home," said another of her students. "She would never beat us. She would feed us first, and then scold us."

'The poor have only God to rely on'

So moved was Mother Teresa by the plight of the people in this slum that she left the serene and cloistered environment of her Loreto convent to live and work amongst the poorest of the poor.

Shrine in Moti Jheel

Moti Jheel is overcrowded and most of its inhabitants are Muslims, but there are Hindus and Christians as well. The slum lacks water, sanitation and proper housing. But when Mother Teresa was there, it did have hope.

"Mother helped me build this house," says one of its residents. "I was a poor widow with eight children. She helped me so much."

Those who were touched by Mother Teresa's love say they feel orphaned now.

"My heart breaks when I think of the old days," said Philomena Maiti. "The poor now have only God to rely on."

Mother Teresa special section
Mother Teresa special section

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