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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 15, november 16-30, 2008
The Parsis of Madras – 3
(By Zarin Mistry)

The “darling” of Madras

Picture an intelligent young girl living a life of luxury, practising for her Trinity College piano exams on a mild summer afternoon in 1918 in the sylvan surroundings of the Nilgiris. Little did she know that her destiny would become inextricably linked with the welfare of the underprivileged in Madras for nearly three decades. It was to make her, perhaps, the best known Parsi from Madras.

Mary Clubwala Jadhav

Mary was born in 1908 to Rustom Patel and Allamai (Khareghat) in Ootacamund. At school she took an active part in Guiding and the Red Cross. When 18, she married Nogi, the son of businessman-philanth­rophist Phiroj M. Clubwala of Madras. The Clubwala home was on the main road in Royapuram, opposite the Fire Temple which the family had donated to the community. The couple had a son, Khushro (Phil), in 1930.

Unfortunately, Nogi Clubwala died suddenly in 1935, when he went to Europe to recover from ill-health. The grief-stricken Mary was left alone with her four-year-old son. Adversity often brings out the best in many of us. Instead of retiring into a shell, Mary decided to occupy her time meaningfully.

In 1923, the Guild of Service was started by Mrs. Waller with a group of women to do social service. The aim of the Society, to serve humanity, not with a view to compete but to co-operate with existing organisations, and to start new efforts, appealed to Mary. She joined it in 1935 and soon became its livewire.

That same year, Mary was appointed Honorary Presidency Magistrate and she held a record for continuous sitting in the Juvenile Court. It was through her persistent efforts that Lady Magistrates were appointed to preside over the Juvenile Courts and, almost entirely, manage them. She also helped found the Juvenile Guidance Bureau.

Mary Clubwala Jadhav, the first Lady Sheriff of Madras

In 1942, with World War II raging, Mrs. Clubwala founded the Indian Hospitality Committee with helpers drawn mostly from the Guild of Service. A large number of Indian troops were stationed in and around Madras and they had very few amenities. Mrs. Clubwala persuaded women from all communities and walks of life to join in the effort to organise mobile canteens, hospital visits, diversional therapy and entertainment programmes. The public donated generously to the War Fund started by the Hospitality Committee which continued its efforts after the War by helping ex-servicemen and their families rehabilitate themselves. The victorious 14th Army presented Mary a Japanese sword in appreciation of her tremendous efforts. Mrs. Clubwala was called “the Darling of the Army” by General Cariappa!

As the War drew to a close, Mrs. Clubwala and Lady Nye, the wife of the Governor, threw open the doors of the Guild to men. After the War, Mary’s focus was once again on the Guild of Service which became a banyan tree which put down roots for various projects like health centres, bakery units, an adoption centre, family assistance schemes, Meals on Wheels, rural development projects, a school for the deaf, to name just a few.

Mrs. Clubwala’s concern for destitute children was responsible for starting the Seva Samajam Boys’ Home and the Seva Samajam Girls’ Home in Adyar in 1950. These Homes gained an international reputation as model institutions. In 1954, she helped get started, through the joint efforts of the Guild and the Madras Rotary Club, the Bala Vihar in Kilpauk, a school for mentally challenged children.

Perhaps Mrs. Clubwala’s most significant contribution was establishing the Madras School of Social Work in 1952. The School is the oldest in the country, after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and offers courses in Community Development, Medical and Psychiatric Social Work, Human Resources Development, International Studies, etc.

In 1953, Mary married Major Chandrakanth K Jadhav, an officer of the Indian Army. He supported her in all her social service activities. These activities gained her international attention.

She was the first Indian woman voluntary social worker to be invited to the United States under the Leader Specialists’ Programme. She gave numerous lectures on social service activities in the U.S. In 1957, she was appointed the UN Correspondent in India for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders.

Many of the details in this article have been taken from a book presented by the social welfare organisations of Madras – and she was involved with 150 of them – when she was appointed the first Lady Sheriff of Madras. This book helps us understand Mary as a person. She valued truth and honesty and disliked flattery. She was humorous and entertained with her countless anecdotes. She was a confident extempore speaker. Though she was in close touch with high-ranking politicians and well-known personalities, she was totally apolitical and, for this, she was respected by all. Her favourite dish was the sundal of Annapurna Cafeteria (on Wallajah Road) and the lime rice and rasam of Mysore Café!

The President of India conferred on her the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.

Before her death in 1975, she suffered the untimely loss of her son Phil. Today, the Phil and Mary Clubwala Jadhav Trust disburses aid to many worthy causes which were dear to Mary’s heart.



In this issue

Threat to Rajaji Hall...
Canal restoration in city...
The Parsis of Madras...
A slum that found hope
Historic residences...
Other stories in this issue...

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