Strolling among the forgotten.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The track fades into thorny vines. It re-emerges a few steps later and pass by a small grave. The inscription is not immediately discernible. Some of the engraved alphabets have gone but they have left behind the imprints. It probably reads: In Ever Loving Memory of Arthur Thomas William.
The Delhi Walla is walking in Nicholson Cemetery, a Christian graveyard near Kashmere Gate in the north of the city. This sloped ground is full of history–it dates from the Colonial-era and is named after a British adventurer. Most tombs belong to those subjects of the Empire who left their cold wet island to serve in its most prized colony. (I have written about the cemetery as a monument here).
There is barely any living soul around but the air is filled with traffic sounds. Just outside are busy bus stops. The hum of the Metro trains rushing forth along the adjacent elevated tracks is a part of the strange silence that cushions the cemetery. The commuters inside the train can easily see the graveyard from their coach windows; they can even spot you as a moving dot-like figure.
The cemetery is filled with scores of tombs, some of which are only numbered stones. One such slab stands alone against invading waves of dry grass.
The walk is full of expected surprises. Here, a sad inscription. There, only a little portion of the tomb visible under brown leaves. On clearing a random stone, the following words show up:
Born At Greencastle, Iowa.
Sept. 12, 1863.
Died at Delhi, India.
June 17, 1935.
Another tomb says: She Loved India
The corner there has dozens of new tombstones in black marble.
Birds’ feathers litter the ground, along with ant hills. The path often turns scenically in long angular curves. The frequent recurrence of thickly-wooded patches turns the walk into a pattern of shade and sunshine.
Some of the tombs are in advanced stages of disintegration. Many lie unseen under bushes and creepers. These graves have probably not been touched by a human hand for years. One day we too shall be forgotten. The living will continue to make noises, while we will sink into unfathomable mysteries. Like the people here.
You were loved