Friday, December 30, 2016
In 1742, Johann Philipp Fabricius, a German missionary, arrived in Madras from Tranquebar. Fabricius was the head of the Danish Tranquebar Mission, a Lutheran congregation and he moved to Madras to provide for the Lutherans of Vepery. It was this man who managed to obtain a printing press - which was seized from de Lally's Pondicherry in 1761 - from Governor Pigot after assuring him that the government's printing requirements would be given a higher priority than the Mission's.
Fabricius contributed significantly to the Mission in Madras. He translated a German version of the Bible into Tamizh, besides a Tamizh-English lexicon. For all those contributions, his name was bestowed, in 1898, upon the Lutheran Mission Middle School that had been set up in 1849. From then on called the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Fabricius School, it arguably most famous alumnus is R.K. Narayan, who joined it as a 6-year old in 1912.
Narayan does not seem to have had much fun in this school, though. In his book Swami and Friends, Narayan has the boy-hero attending the Albert Mission School at Malgudi. Swami, however, gets to do things that Narayan would not have dared to: questioning the Scripture Master's scoffing of Hindu deities, or throwing the Headmaster's cane out of the window when it was threatening to come down for a couple of the juiciest. But let us not forget that Swami was a 10-year old doing all this, while Narayan had to deal with such instances much earlier in his life!