In 1985, when seven-year-old Gautam flew out of India with his new-found mother, nuclear physicist Patricia Lewis, and landed up in New Zealand and later in the UK, all he wanted was to forget everything about his past — of a polio-affected abandoned boy growing up at Shishu Bhavan, an orphanage in Kolkata run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
On his last meeting with Mother after his return to Kolkata in 1996, the toughest challenge he faced was to accept the reality that this was his home, the place he belonged to.
As the UK-based Gautam Lewis, on crutches, hobbled into a packed Nandan II auditorium on Sunday evening for a screening of his documentary, Mother Teresa and Me, that talks about his relations with Mother Teresa, he was accorded a reception befitting a celebrity. The documentary is part of an ongoing festival at Nandan to commemorate the canonisation of Mother Teresa to be bestowed by the Vatican on September 4.
A licensed pilot, founder of a flight training school for the differently-abled, brand ambassador of Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a documentary filmmaker and a photographer, the 39-year-old has a fairly enviable list of accomplishments against his name.
However, he still had one wish left to achieve.
“I’m on a mission to reconnect with India. Having been brought up in an affluent family, I found it tough to be among poverty-stricken and abandoned kids when I returned to the country in 1996. However, I’ve since reconciled with my past and feel duty-bound to tell the world about my experience of Mother Teresa,” Gautam said.
Titled Mother Teresa and Me, his delves deep into his personal equations with the Mother and the days he spent in the city.
Outside the auditorium, an exhibition of his photographs, titled Memories of Mother Teresa, is drawing big crowds as well. The photographs capture the lives orphans and polio-affected children. He said, “It was like filming my childhood which I have no recollection of,” Gautam said of his experience of shooting the film.