Friday, October 27, 2006

The Nicholson Cemetery near Delhi

You know, I'd never even heard of the place. I love history (like y'all didn't notice), and particularly the kind of off-the-beathen-path stuff that Peter Foster (the Delhi correspondent for the Telegraph) just posted to his blog:
Personally I always seek out graveyards when I'm travelling in India. They're heavy with stories of the long-forgotten lives of suicidal subalterns and opium agents that populated 19th and early 20th century India.

My favourite is in a Bihari town called Motihari, where George Orwell was born to an opium agent. Half the slabs are being used as washing stones and the other half disappearing under a green slime being produced by the local sewer.

Among the headstones slowly sinking into the mire is the pathetic, child-sized memorial to Eileen May, the daughter of Anthony O'Reilly Edwards, who died aged "1yr, 2mths and 17 days" in May 1881. Beside her lies Mr Edwards's "beloved wife", Caroline, who followed his daughter into the ground 18 months later in Dec 1882. Of the broken-hearted Mr Edwards there is no sign.
Like Mr. Foster, I have a fascination with graveyards, and other markers of the lives of our ancestors in all their particularity and individuality. [For instance, this recalls the time I spent at the St. Thomas Cathedral in Bombay this summer, reading the various marble slab inscriptions of British soldiers long gone].

William Dalrymple's new book on the last Mughals looks simply delicious. I read a review this summer, but it wasn't yet out in the bookstores in India. Something to look forward to for this winter's trip maybe.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I like to read headstones, too. I thought I was simply freakish. I'm very sad to see the new way of using plaques on the ground that really don't say anything. In the example for that article, naming the days of their daughter's short life so fully gives you a greater sense of their sorrow. It's as if they treasured each and every one of those years, months and days. Dates of birth and death alone can't do that.