Last week when Bablada called me up and informed about the Christian cemetery near Maniktala on A.P.C. Road (Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road), for the first few minutes I tried hard to locate the place, only to realise I have never noticed anything even close to a cemetery in that area. It took lesser time for us to finalise that we would be visiting the place next Sunday.
The cemetery is behind the Maniktala leprosy hospital (The Leprosy Mission) with the entrance to the left of the hospital. From the Maniktala crossing if you start walking towards Rajabazar crossing it is on the left after a two minute walk.
The nondescript gate of the cemetery is easy to miss, unless you look up to read the text “Maniktalla Christian Cemetery” almost hidden by the branches of a tree. Sliding inside through the narrow gap between the half closed doors we found a lane approaching an open space full of overgrown shrubs and bushes. One look and its clear that we have in our front one of the most badly maintained cemetery. The place is still in use and we saw a grave dated 2006 which looked like atleast two decades old.
We went looking for old graves and found one dated 1880. In it was written –
Matilda the beloved wife of Revd Charles H Bradburn
who departed this life on December 1880
after three years devoted service among Bengali boys
in the C.M.S. boarding school Amherst St”
The letters on this grave have almost faded out and we had to connect the existing dots to decipher the lines.
Moving further we found that only few graves can be reached easily with most surrounded by overgrowths. On our right a narrow trail lead us almost to a dead end. We had to make our way through the low branches to reach a relatively clear space and found on the left a walled area. The low black walls surrounded an elevated clear space containing 5 graves. These, we found, are the graves of Poetess Toru Dutt and her family. On the 150th birth anniversary of the poet, her grave along with those of her parents, her brother and sister, were cleaned and walled to protect from the surrounding overgrowths.
It was sad to see how we have forgotten the resting place of a poet who is often called the Keats of the Indo-English literature. I sincerely hope this cemetery gets proper attention, is maintained properly and that visitors wont have to wrestle through the brunches of the trees to go and see the graves of the Dutt family members and many others.
Toru (Torulata) Dutt (March 4, 1856 – August 30, 1877), born into the Rambagan Dutt family, was an Indian writer, who wrote in English and French. She, along with her sister Aru, went to France at an age of 13 and then to Italy and England and stayed there till 1873. Excepting for a few months in France, the sisters were never put to school, but they attended the lectures for women in Cambridge. She died at an early age of 21 and her only work which was published during her lifetime was “A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields”.