|Agaram Protestent cemetery, 1834, BangaloreWikipedia|
|Oscar Dawson 4-star retd Indian Admiral /en.wikipedia.org|
Like the South Park Street cemetery, Kolkata this colonial one has a variety of tombs and gravestone of different designs. Yet another fact is they were built by the undertakers S. Mullenex and Nelson and Black as per the wish of the departed souls and dear loved ones. Large size granite slabs and blocks were used in the graves. Ever since the wall was raised between the graveyard and the KSRP, the former had become a neglected place leading to the overgrowth of vegetation.
Another interesting feature is each tombstone has a story behind it, reflecting on the personality of the persons. Some may be hilarious, some may carry a streak of melancholy about them. Johnson who gave a detailed information about the graves pointed out that the oldest grave dated 1808 is that of Sgt. Major Kelly, HM 59th Regiment of Foot. "It is said one of the soldiers buried there was executed because he refused to drink his pint of rum!" (mind you, in those days it was believed that Rum had medicinal values to cure infection from plague or cholera epidemics and by refusing to drink it, the soldier paid a heavy price - sent to the gallows!!). A grave near the entrance is that of Uriel Truelove who died on January 5, 1855; the cause of death: cholera. Similarly there is another headstone, that lies over the remains of Lt. Col. Peter Latouche Chambers, HM (Her Majesty's) 41st Regiment, and his wife Emily Ann ( August 29, 1827). The cause of death: Cholera. Apparently the Cholera Epidemic that had swept across a part of this place during that period took a heavy toll.
An unfortunate fact that emerges from the various colonial cemeteries across India is invariably countless Europeans in the early colonial period were unable to cope with the harsh, dry and hot Indian summer and fell prey to dreaded tropical diseases like Smallpox, Cholera, Typhoid, etc, besides bites by poisonous reptiles at a pretty young age. So were the Memsahibs. Despite these lurching dangers, these Europeans pioneers never lost their curiosity and spirit of adventure and discovered many hill stations across the Indian subcontinent and built dams and waterways in the midst of thick jungles. For example mention may be made of the efforts made my John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore District,TN to discover Nilgiris and Ooty hill station (1819 expedition to the hills) and Col. John Pennycuick, Army engineer who built the Mullai Periyar Dam (1895) across the Periyar river and diverted the course of the river toward east, thus benefiting the rain shadow areas of South Tamil Nadu.
As for the Agaram cemetery restoration work, it was just a beginning in the right direction amply supported by Ronald Johnson. The Central the Defense Minister, George Fernandes, who hailed from Karnataka took keen interest to repair and restore this cemetery. It meant a large sum, time and proper execution of the project. The pathetic story is, the old burial ground still remains uncared for.
The problem with Agaram cemetery is no body, not even the state government official knew about the existence of this time-honored colonial grave. Further, it is in the land owned by the Indian Army and access to the grave is difficult. However, Admiral Dawson and Johnson were waging a war to give respect to this resting place. Their efforts should not go waste and it is not too late.
“Every soldier fights for the country, for you; he saves your life by giving his and the least we can do is to remember him for his deeds” – Oscar Dawson (four-star Navy Admiral (13 November 1923 – 23 October 2011) ’s patriotic and inspiring words must echo the corridors of the power so that steps will be taken to restore this oldest Protestant cemetery in Bangalore. The descendants of the people who eternally rest here in peace will be very happy and grateful to the state government.
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