an entertaining book, part II

From City of Djinns By William Dalrymple

“Norah was dead, but that month as I explored the area around the residency, I found many other characters who seemed, like her to be bits of flotsam left over from the Delhi of William Fraser.

A little to the south of the residency, the British arsenal was blown up in the mutiny. Beside that, tucked away off the main road, lay the original British cemetery. I had expected the graveyard to be as dirty and neglected as the Residency, but was surprised to find it spotlessly clean. It did not take long to work out why. The graveyard became a rather smart housing estate. The marble grave slabs were kept scrubbed till they shone; the Palladium chamber tombs had been restored and rebuilt. Washing was hung up between obelisks and television aerials were attached to higher crosses. Many of the pavement-wallahs and jhuggi -dwellers in Delhi complain of police protection rackets so I asked one of the men in the graveyard whether they had any trouble.

“Good heavens, no”, he replied in a clipped Anglo-Indian accent. “They can’t harm us.” we ‘re all Christians here.”

“I am sorry”, I said, seeing that I had caused offence.  “It is our churchyard”. continued the man, straightening his tie.  “The Andrew family has been here for three generations. These Hindus don’t like Christian monuments so we are guarding it. You will have tea? Tea was brought and we settled on the grave of a British auditor- general. A plate of Indian sweets and a wedding album was brought out from beneath a slab.  “Since I retired from the railways in 1985 I have turned my hand to a little gardening, continued Mr. Andrews.”  “Now we try to grow most of our own vegetables here. And that was my poultry farm. he pointed at marble cot at my feet the tomb of a colonel Nixon from a county Tyrone. a makeshift wire mesh had been strung from the corners , but the grave was empty of all chickens.

” we’ve eaten all the hens”, he explained, seeing my glance.  “Now I plan to keep my fishes in there.”

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