In a world far, far away

is the old city of Madras. In a world many timelines past, is the city that is my only obsession. Welcome, to Fort. St. George.

If you overlooked the teeming hoards of politicians and white dhotis, this place still manages to look like it jumped right out of S. Muthiah’s books. If you just made the tiniest effort to ignore the dirty, ramshackle tin-walled canteens, this place has the air of being in the 1800s. (It does – that unmistakably musty smell I associate with old temples and older books)

The last couple of weekends, I’ve been spending at the fort, hoping to get some good photographs. Thus far, only St. Mary’s has posed for me. And so, this post will be on her.

St. Mary’s is a charming old woman. There’s around her an air of almost virginal purity. But, she’s seen many men, and many more still women. She’s seen the rise of an empire, was witness to the weddings of two empire builders and has held the men when they died. StMaryschurch-interior-Scan065

St. Mary’s church, as I’ve been telling to anybody who cares to listen, is the oldest Anglican church this side of the Suez. It was built in the 1680s, by Governor Strenshyam Master, and was where Robert Clive took his wedding vows, as did Elihu Yale.

St Mary's Church, Fort St. George This church has in its yard, some of the oldest tombstones in the country.

And inside, are names you’ve only read in history books. Er…who am I kidding? Not even history books have names such as the one that graces the walls of St. Mary’s.
Sir. Thomas Munro, Lord Conway, Robert Clive are just some of the names I could remember from a list that exceeds 50. StMaryschurch-Conway-Scan068

And just when you tire of statues and plaques, the church’s archs, wedges, niches and other details take over. In one corner stands a magnificent organ, its pipes gleaming in the afternoon sun. StMaryschurch-Organ-Scan064, while right across it, a stained glass window throws in just enough light to allow one to make out the names sketched on the donor’s list. StMarys-Window-Scan061

Enveloping this all is a sense of piety and calm, that is my longtime friend. (I’ve encountered the same kind of calm in such varied places as a temple, a restaurant, a beach, a bar and more)

Before long, I’ve run out of film, and frankly, an amateur photographer can only do so much. So, I bid my goodbye to this stately old woman, and make my way home.

2 Comments so far

  1. Navneeth (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2007 @ 1:26 am

    Thanks for the nice write-up and pictures.

  2. Bharath (unregistered) on May 5th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    I so badly wanted to visit the Fort before I left the city.. definitely on my wish list when I visit next

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