For a day out, I chose to listen to stories. Stories of love, pain, passion, bereavement and unfortunate deaths. This was the first time I was going out, alone in an unknown town. My seniors were amazed, appalled by my decision to visit the resting place of many for my first sightseeing day.
The history I read about had tales of foreigners’ glory in the British empire. They had writings of how they conquered the hearts and lands of people, about the power they held. Was it a humble quest for finding the broken history or a mere curiosity how the words 'haunted' or 'spooky' adorned the cemetery took me there. The uber driver, fidgety for the new ride he accepted, dropped me off at the corner of Park street road. Amidst the fleeting motor vehicles, crossing the road in baby steps; a modest entrance stood waiting, in a pink a newborn’s cheek wears.
The cemetery was opened in 1767, to house the remains of loved ones of many British officials and famous persons. Like several other places offering dark tourism, this cemetery was listed as one of the top haunted places in the city. But, much to my chagrin, what welcomed me was lush landscape, voluptuous ferns and trees. The concrete pathway lined by mausoleums, tombs and obelisks standing tall, appeared resting beneath a blanket of green moss, unlike what I imagined. How could anyone call this place scary when all it offers was a comforting silence to the visitors?
Originally closing with 1600 tombs, this cemetery had many of its tombs demolished, what remains now are the survivors of the heinous act. The monuments range from minimal gravesites, some had busts of the deceased, some even were replicas of Roman temples, one even looked like Nagara style temple architecture (of Charles “Hindoo” Stuart) of British and Colonial residents, some sons, daughters, lovers, and some twin monuments of mother and daughters. There lies remains of “a virtuous mother”, another of “the most beautiful girl in Calcutta” and several others including the son of Charles Dickens. I feel blessed to have been here. One could only imagine the terrors and traumas they went through -“Tropical diseases” they concluded when they couldn’t identify the illnesses. This could be an indicator of the contrasting conditions of the then Calcutta and their homelands. Poor sanitation and living conditions caused these young deaths of many. Many stories untold, many moments unlived, they left the face of Earth leaving many unexplored experiences
One of the monuments catching my eyes was of a pineapple core shaped one. Rose Aylmer was asked to leave her homeland to India, after her mother found her romantic relationship with Walter Savage Landor, a poet. After 2 years in India, she succumbed to cholera, which was believed to be contracted by consuming fruits like Watermelon and Pineapple then. History says, she was an ardent lover of pineapples, and this love caused her tragic death. Her lover, Walter Landor in her epitaph wrote,
“What was her fate? Long, long before her hour,
Death called her tender soul, by break of bliss.
From the first blossoms, to the buds of joy:
Those few our noxious fate unblasted leaves
In this inclement clime of human life.”
The cemetery is a work of art – here lies some of the finest examples of architecture marvels. From simple works of design to ornate works, given with the gentle breeze brushing off occasionally, this place is perfect to ponder about history and the lives people led. Pay the respects they deserve, walk through the green vines and the great expanse of buffalo grass, rest under the shade of a tree. Be aware of the place you’re in, for this place houses some of the greatest stories ever been told, or untold.