“Do not disturb!” by K.J.S.Chatrath

Some persons working in the cemeteries are known to come across some inexplicable experiences. I have been visiting the cemeteries and especially the French cemeteries in India for almost ten years for my research work on inscriptions on French graves in India but I did not have any such experience during my numerous visits to these cemeteries. Well almost!

During my last visit to Pondicherry cemetery in January 2005 I had a somewhat baffling experience.

pondy-boundry-420Entrance to Puducherri’s (Pondicherry’s) French cemetery

I may add that I am a hard boiled rationalist and I am miles away from being superstitious. I had been visiting the cemetery and for a few days and had been meeting the Lady Caretaker and a young man who was her assistant. Both of them were extremely polite and helpful. In spite of my not knowing Tamil, they had gone out of their way to guide me to various little known old graves in the cemetery which I had missed during my previous visits.

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A view of the cemetery

On the last day of my visit to the cemetery I thanked the Lady Caretaker and her Assistant for their help. Suddenly both of them let out an almost synchronized shout. I was really startled while one of them tried to push me and the other gesticulated towards my back. My reflexes were rather quick for a sixty plus man. I looked back and saw a cow with long horns charging towards me. Helped by the push of the Caretaker and my own reflexes I just managed to get out of the way of the charging animal- not by inches but just by centimeters. My immediate reaction was to take a few deep breaths and then sip a bit of water. By the time a few people had gathered and were speaking excitedly in Tamil, which unfortunately I could not follow.

Back in the hotel about half an hour later and having become more composed I could not help wondering if it was just one of those coincidences. Or was it a message to me not to disturb the dead any more! I don’t really know.

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Memorial to those from Pondicherry who died for France in the World Wars.

  Photographs, text and copyright by K.J.S.Chatrath.

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