Mrs Mary Clubwala Jadhav was a legendary social worker who was awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan for her outstanding humanitarian service. Settled in Madras, Mary Clubwala, a Parsi by birth, was keen to start a school of social work in Madras on the lines of the Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work at Bombay (later renamed the Tata Institute of Social Sciences). Thus the MSSW came into being on 5 August, 1952 and it was housed in thatched sheds in the Harrington Road area and offered the two-year Diploma in Social Service Administration (DipSSA).
At the time of starting MSSW, the great statesman C.Rajagopalachari humorously teased Mary : "it is mechanised charity". The school was subsequently shifted to its present premises at Jarret's Gardens with an old imposing two-storied structure and two thatched sheds in the midst of many trees. MSSW was founded by a group of persons led by Mary Clubwala and not by an organisation. As she was the chief of the Madras branch of the Indian Conference of Social Work (later renamed the Indian Council of Social Welfare) and the Guild of Service (Central), MSSW was declared as a school under the auspices of these two organisations. MSSW functioned as a special school under the Directorate of Public Instruction and the head of the school was designated Director. But Mary Clubwala was advised the need for a registered body and thus she with a team led by the famous industrialist late Mr.D.C.Kothari founded the Society for Social Education and Research (SSER) under the Societies Registration Act to run the MSSW. There were legal flaws in the society and its relationship with MSSW which remained unquestioned. In the early years the position of Director was occupied by voluntary social workers. The first professionally qualified Director was the late Dr.P.T.Thomas. The late Dr.K.V.Sridharan was Director for a brief period. Mr. K.N. George was the third and the last Director. Joined as a lecturer in 1955, Mr.George helped Mary Clubwala in developing the MSSW.
Mrs. Mary Clubwala Jadhav, born in 1909 at Ootacumund, made Madras her home. Married to Clubwala, she married Major Jadhav after the demise of Clubwala. Philroy, her house at the Sterling Road junction, was the nerve centre of social work in Tamilnadu from where she guided the numerous projects and activities. Almost all social problems that people faced were her concerns and she tried her best to address these. Her approach was mainly institutionalising social work services. She, therefore, created some excellent institutions like Seva Samajam Boys Home, Seva Samajam Girls Home and Bala Vihar (For the mentally retarded) to mention a few. Many retired Civil Servants like N E S.Raghavachari ICS (Retd), former Chief Secretary of Kerala, and M.A. Vellodi , IFS (Retd) were actively involved in the administration of the Guild of Service (Central), the oldest voluntary organisation in India. Involvement of many highly placed persons in the working of the Guild was the key to her success besides appointing professional social workers to head the various institutions. Two characteristics of her style of functioning are worth emulating. First, regular meetings of the committees of all the institutions and drafting of minutes in detail ; all meetings were preceded with the preparation of notes on agenda and circulating in advance. Sending notice much in advance and confirmation of participation are other elements of the meetings. She personally monitored the follow-up. Second, dictating letters to all persons after a function and signing all the letters. It was unbelievable that she personally dictated and signed letters of gratitude to all persons concerned after the sudden demise of her only son Phil in his forties. A rare human being.
Mary Clubwala was appointed Sheriff of Madras in 1956 ; the first woman Sheriff of the city. She was also a member of the Legislative Council ( MLC). During World War II, Mary Clubwala formed the Indian Hospitality Committee with volunteers drawn from the Guild of Service to support the war efforts and to look after the soldiers injured in the War. General Cariappa, C-in-C of the Indian Army, called Mary Clubwala the "Darling of the Indian Army". She involved political leaders, civil servants, businessmen, judges, well-placed women and other influential sections in the diverse activities of the Guild of Service in different roles. She was on first name relationship with Mrs. Indira Gandhi and many prominent personalities in India and abroad. She was obese and diabetic, and yet she was a workaholic for sustaining various social causes. Her fundraising skills were amazing. The International Evening of the GOS every year in February was a wonderful fundraising programme with music, dance, skits, food stalls and many other attractions. Social work at that time was elitist and Mary Clubwala cleverly brought together the elites for promoting social work by assigning them important positions of responsibility in the GOS units. At the same time she maintained close relationship with the destitute children, women, the differently abled, and other residents of the GOS institutions. She knew many of them by name. She raised enormous funds in India and abroad to develop the GOS institutions with good infrastructure. The land at Casa Major Road, Egmore, where the GOS head office and Seva Samajam Girls Home are located, has been bought for MSSW and GOS through her efforts.
The energy of Mrs.Jadhav was breathtakingly unlimited and she found time to pay attention to all institutions. She used to visit MSSW regularly and monitored its activities through her Secretary Ramamoorthy, who was also the Manager of MSSW. Even Mr.George was careful in keeping Ramamoorthy in good humour. She treated the faculty with respect. Whenever I visited her at Philroy, she used to sit by my side and make me eat the snacks and cakes fully. She used to walk upto the door and say "come again". She was a wonderful hostess to all visitors . Except when she had other important exigencies, she used to give farewell parties to the outgoing students and the faculty at Philroy every year. Her parties were lavish and she used to mingle with the students freely. Her parties were memorable. Among the faculty she was close to my teacher and later my colleague Radha Paul. Mrs.Jadhav was invited to various functions and seminars in India and abroad. Radha Paul was her speech writer. Once when she was on leave, the responsibility fell on me at the suggestion of Mr.George. I wrote a good speech. But she did not read it. She told "Nair's speech was good, but very technical. I did not understand some parts of the speech. Radha understands me". That was the first and last time I wrote her speech. Twenty three years of stewardship of MSSW came to an abrupt end in 1975. She had cancer and a part of one leg was amputated. She had the best of treatment, but God's will was different. When she was admitted at the Wellingdon Nursing Home, I used to visit her. One day I sent her a get well card. The next day I got a thanks letter signed by her. When I met her later on, she told that the flower on the card was her favourite flower and she would preserve that. That was Mrs.Jadhav even when she was seriously ill. Finally she was taken to Bombay. That was the last time I saw her alive. The 1975 Republic Day awards included Mrs.Jadhav's name also. The nation conferred the second highest national award Padma Vibhushan on her and she bid adieu to social work and the mortal world the same year. Till she breathed her last social work was the sole content of Mrs. Jadhav's life. She was an incomparable person.
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