City Monument – President and First Lady’s Tomb, Prithviraj Road Christian Cemetery
The place of grace.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Perhaps the most fitting tribute to a long marriage, this is a memorial to a husband and wife. The tomb’s marble slab describes him as ‘A gentle colossus’ and her as the ‘First Lady of India’.
The Delhi Walla is at the Christian cemetery on Prithviraj Road, home to more than 2,000 graves. What makes this tombstone different from any other is the Ashoka seal at the top. India’s national emblem is not out of place here. Ashes of KR Narayanan, the nation’s tenth president, are buried here. His wife is also buried at the same place.
He died in 2005. She died three years later. They both were born in 1921. Usha Narayanan was from Burma. The grave is also inscribed with her original name, Ma Tint Tint.
It is slightly unnerving to come across such a modest grave for a head of state. Delhi is used to providing its rulers tombs and samadhis that are larger than life — Humayun tomb and Rajghat immediately come to mind. But there are no disappointments. A pomegranate tree leans over it, giving a sense of quiet dignity that is in some ways more impressive than large domes built over the city’s more elaborate resting places.
While it does give the impression that it’s a tomb for both of them, in reality, it’s just the tomb of Mrs. Usha Narayanan, a Christian, in which, as you mentioned, some portion of her husband’s ashes are also present according to her last wishes. I wonder why his name should be there at all. His ashes are, after all, just her grave goods.
Narayanan who belonged to coconut climbing community was from very backward background and it was the local Christian church who gave him education free of cost in Lower primary and St. Marys High school at Kuravilangadu and he graduated from CMS College Kottayam, the first college established in the State(1840)by Christian missionaries.Narayanan had very good relations with Christian church as without it he would not have become a graduate. His sister was also given in marriage to a Christian.
He had expressed his love for Christianity several times.
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