India was in a state of upheaval. The partitioning of its borders into Pakistan and East Pakistan in 1947 had sparked a forced population exchange that in turn created a humanitarian tragedy of immense proportions. Tens of millions of families carried everything they had on their backs, including their old and their ill, to destinations unknown. They slept on the roads, they begged for their food on the roads, and they died on the roads. They had nowhere to go.
Delhi, Agra, Bhopal, and Bombay all felt the initial hit from the incoming masses in the northwest but as the refugees found the cities full, they continued on as far as they could go. Those fleeing from Bengal in the east poured into what was already one of the most impoverished places on the continent - the slums of Calcutta.
Those that made it there found themselves in a living hell of disease and squalor. They became faceless ghosts, ignored by the authorities, turned out by the hospitals, and preyed upon by everyone. They became starving filthy dregs of humanity that everyone wished would just go away. They were an embarrassment.
On December 21st, 1948 though, a light appeared in the darkness of Calcutta, under the guise of a skinny little woman by the name of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. It was her first day stepping into the slums. Like the poor, she had no home. No possessions. No food. Like the poor, she didn’t know where she was going, just that she had to. She would know when she arrived. Eventually, thousands would come to follow this little woman who didn’t know where she was going.
In her native Albania, they knew her as Rosebud. The rest of the world would come to know her as Mother Theresa.