City Hangout – Indian Christian Cemetery, Paharganj
Silence in noise.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No breeze, immense stillness. Fallen leaves litter the ground like a worn carpet. All around, hundreds, perhaps thousands of graves. Some extremely well taken care of, others in disrepair—as if they hadn’t been visited for long.
This is the Indian Christian Cemetery in Paharganj. It is astonishing that at the heart of this congested, crowded, chaotic central Delhi locality, such a place sleeps in an all-encompassing silence.
This evening, a brown cat with unusually huge whiskers is making her way through the tombstones. She finally stops by a grave commemorating “the loving memory of the elder son of Emlen and Vipin Ekka.” One wonders why the gravestone doesn’t bear the departed one’s name, but then you realise he didn’t live enough to have one—he was born on 4.1.99 and passed on 13.1.99. This portion of the graveyard appears to belong to infants. Baby Singh’s grave is inscribed with the words “Still Born”.
Dating from 1983, its cement top has cracked open, exposing the red bricks underneath. Babu, a “New Born Baby”, has his well-maintained grave decked with fresh marigold garlands. An unusually large grave, nearby, is home to Abhinav Singh, aged 10.
The grave that stands out prominently is of a 69-year-old woman. Rosaline Wilson’s resting place is decked with tiles showing huge dewy red roses. The grave looks like a greeting card. The Hindi inscription at the bottom says—“Maa, we realised what mother meant by being so far from you, now the heart understands what is a mother’s love.” This is followed by a line in English—We miss you, Mom.
One of the persons buried in this graveyard was Jyoti Mariyam Hora. According to newspaper reports from 2013, she left Khunti village in Jharkhand for a new life in Delhi on Swarna Jayanti Express, with a friend, hoping to find work as a housekeeper. She died within a week of arriving in our city, stuck by jaundice, aged 10. It is difficult to locate her grave, perhaps it is unnamed.
Near the graveyard’s only gate, a board displays the charges for burial—₹2,000 for “kacha burial”, ₹3,500 for “pukka burial”, and ₹500 for a “cemented cross” to install upon the grave.
Next, a marble slab says—“This cemetry is full to its capacity. Only family graves (doubling) are allowed.”
RIP-Rest in Paharganj