City Landmark – Indian Christian Cemetery, Burari
Summer’s cool envoy.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
But then it was never easy to catch him. Say, he’s spotted with a Matia Mahal gossiper on Jama Masjid stairs. That very hour he’s seen enjoying a plate of Raju ki mutton biryani in Bara Hindu Rao. While somebody in Gurgaon swears he’s sitting quietly inside the old stone church in Civil Lines.
Turns out RV Smith remains as elusive in death as he was in life. It is proving impossible this prickly white noon to locate the writer’s grave.
Delhi’s legendary storyteller, a 21st century dastango, Smith effortlessly churned out his longtime newspaper column week after week, on the city’s lesser-known nuances, myths and legends. He died three years ago this month. He was buried at the Indian Christian Cemetery in Burari, north of the megapolis.
Usually graveyards are within a walking distance from crowded locales. This one is too far from teeming life, almost on the city’s outer limits. Parts of the ground are overgrown with bushes, some are reaching up to the knees. A few crosses have fallen off their graves, half-sunk in grass. A man in blue shirt is wading through the tall bushes, parting them boldly with bare arms, reading the inscriptions on the graves hidden beneath.
Easy to guess what Smith would have done if he were here searching for a grave. The whimsical flâneur would have gladly let himself be distracted by a new unexpected trail, ending up with a far more incredible story about the cemetry. May be something to do with a ruined grave and the fantastic life of the person buried, spiced with a sprinkle of scandal naturally.
Suddenly, a dry crackle. The grass stirs. Snake!
Back to the grass-free track scissoring the cemetery in halves. A woman kneeling beside a bench, holding a wreath. It’s a statue.
Perhaps Smith would have never cared to visit this cemetery. He adored digging stories from Dilli’s past, this graveyard contains citizens of contemporary Delhi. The most recent of the capital’s Christian graveyards, it came up at the turn of the century. See, this cracked grave entangled in weed; home to Chiranji Lal, died in 2007.
Ahead, a kuchha grave topped with fresh marigold flowers.
Near the gate, a cold water filter donated in the “loving memory” of Glovina Stella Keny, died in 2015.
Far away, a gravedigger’s shovel, or perhaps the gardener’s. Best to stand beside it. Smith’s ghost will sure turn up to interview the shovel. Yes, ghosts and spirits must exist; Smith’s city reporting is full of these supernatural citizens. You just wait and watch.