When the telephone rang... .
MY PIECE on Krupabai Satthianadhan this past week had the telephone luring me on another historical trail. From Mahema Devadoss and Rajkumar Hensman, I learnt that the Rev. W. T. Satthianadhan, with whom Krupabai stayed when she first came to Madras, and who was to become her father-in-law three years later, was the pastor of the 1847 Zion Church in Chintadripet, named to the pastorate in 1862, the church's second, and first Indian, pastor. This scholar was to serve Zion Church for 30 years and his descendants were to serve it for many decades more.
The Rev. W. T. Satthianadhan's son-in-law, W. D. Clarke, succeeded him and was at Zion Church for 28 years. Clarke was followed by his son, Samuel S. Clarke, who was pastor there for around 20 years. Sundar Clarke, later to become Bishop of Madras, followed in his father's footsteps, serving Zion Church for a few years. Mahema Devadoss recalls that in 1995, the Clarke family and several well wishers gathered at the Zion Church to hear the fifth generation of the family conduct the service. Sathianathan Clarke had just returned after doing a doctorate in divinity at Harvard after a Master's at Yale.
Zion Church, with its eye-catching architecture, and the neighbouring Satthianathan Memorial Hall and Goschen (local authority) Library, both of which reflect the church's architecture, are three buildings that could figure in any heritage list. But, sadly, two of them are in a sorry state of disrepair and don't hide their shabby appearance. If restored, the three could together be a striking landmark complex in one of the most architecturally fascinating parts of the city, Chintadripet, which dates to early Madras. `The Village of Small Looms' (china tari pettai) was founded in 1734 by Governor George Morton Pitt who settled 230 weavers' families here by the Cooum to produce the increasing quality of cottons the Company wanted for export. But it's not restoration that's being talked about today; there's talk of threat to at least the library building.
It's also been pointed out to me that, in a coincidence, the widower Samuel Satthianadhan married a Kamala, the name his first wife had given her second novel. Kamala Satthianadhan collaborated with her husband on at least one book, Indian Christian Life (1898), and was obviously interested in writing. Could she have been the Satthianathan my friend the old books' collector remembers in connection with Our Ladies' Magazine? Samuel and Kamala Satthianadhan's daughter Padmini (Sengupta) was, I'm told, a well-known writer. But I've only been able to find mention of one book by her, a biography of her mother titled The Portrait of an Indian Woman.
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