City Hangout – Forgotten Graveyard, Mathura Road
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Could it be the rains? The sprawling ground is choked with weedy grass and unknown plants, so tall and numerous that their tips prick the chin. Wading through is fearful. What if the next step fall on a hooded cobra?
This is actually a graveyard, here beside the busy Mathura Road, on the westside of the sprawling Humayun Tomb complex, just behind Isa Khan’s mosque. The cemetery has not been in use for long, perhaps decades, or even centuries. It will be difficult to identify the people buried in these graves. This humid afternoon it is impossible to spot any grave anyway; even the narrow path has been subjugated by the vegetation. But somewhere here lies a most exquisite grave, though too obscure to betray its origins.
One evening, long before the grass took over the graveyard, when men from the vicinity would exploit it as a cricket ground, that grave was easier to locate. Situated far from other equally derelict graves, it lay closer to the bus shelter on Mathura Road. The grave was past its expiry date. Its stone had ruptured; cracked lines made an atlas of maps across the jagged surface. Big black ants were crawling all over. A clay pitcher at one corner was filled with water, probably placed by someone for birds. Bees were landing into it.
Partly due to the poignancy of its damaged state as well as of its deserted location, the grave stirred sympathy that evening, evoking more intense feeling than the nearby tomb of emperor Humayun, which has fountains, gardens, foreign tourists, and a dome with gold finial.
At some point in the distant past, the grave must had been whole, visited dutifully by the deceased’s friends on occasions. Today, it has sunk under the grass, lying unremembered. (This might not be regrettable. In the ongoing Google era, the right to be forgotten post-demise is unthinkable).
Another similar evening, when the graveyard was easily navigable through clipped grass, a young man in white kurta and pajamas was sitting on the grass, close to the aforementioned grave. His face was hidden. Further ahead, two more men in white were silently wandering about the grounds in search of… who knows what.
Today, nobody is to be seen amid the overgrown greens. The vegetation clears out some steps ahead, making way for a metal fence, beyond which is Mathura Road, and life.
Life is elsewhere