Have you gone some place and seen names of lovers scratched on trees or written on walls? On seeing it, have you wondered what has become of them and their love-story? I did just that recently when I saw the scribbled messages, on the walls of the tombs in Udayagiri Fort.
The fort which is about a couple of hours drive from here, has been turned into a bio-diversity park by the forest department of Tamil Nadu. Inside the fort area one can find the ruins of a chapel and within it, the tombs of the Dutch Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy, his wife and son. It is on the walls of these that I saw the graffiti.
The chapel, or what’s left of it is surrounded by overgrown grass and creepers. In fact, there is barely enough space for one person to walk between the grass as tall as I. When I read up on the place on TripAdvisor, it had said ‘well-kept’. Well, it wasn’t. Not by far. I didn’t turn back though, but walked through the overgrowth braving the mosquito attack.
It was good that I did. Or else I wouldn’t have come across Manikumar, Sutheesh, Manoj, Shythu, Sujith and their ilk and got the opportunity to ponder upon their fates. The writing on the wall was clear, it was Shythu that Sujith loved, and vice versa, it was unclear though who Manikumar loved owing to the name having faded. Had she faded from his life too? Huh, don’t be so pessimistic, I told myself. They could well be happily married (that incurable romantic in me!)
The name of Sutheesh’s love interest was indistinct too. But who is Manoj? His name was all by itself. Was he celebrating his single status or bemoaning not having found a name to go with his at the time of writing on the wall? Thenkarai seems to have been a more matter-of-fact sort of character, merely stating the name of his school and nothing more. An inscrutable young man by all means, I wouldn’t be surprised to know.
Did these youngsters come and sit here (braving the mosquitoes) away from the prying and censorious eyes of society or were the graffiti merely born of wishful thinking on their part? Perhaps, a silently pining Sujith was only using the opportunity as an outlet for his secret feelings for Shythu by scribbling her name on DeLannoy’s tomb, with a heart joining them together. On the other hand, Shythu could be totally ignorant of Sujith’s feelings. What if it were a one-sided affair? Passion raging on one side, absolute indifference on the other. Or may be she had snubbed him and desperation drove him to write her name along with his?
So many possibilities! The stories I could write! May be I will, when the mood is right. In the meantime, here are some more photos of the place:
Did De Lannoy ever envisage his family’s tomb would host the love notes of a future generation? I bet the idea never crossed his mind. A Flemish naval commander of the Dutch East India Company turned Chief of the Travancore Army, he surely had more pressing things to occupy his mind. Especially when the fort is supposed to have been used to confine prisoners captured in the campaign against Tipu Sultan.
The atmospheric effect of the place was one of gloom. It could have been because of seeing the tomb of a small child. A child’s death however distant in the past is depressing to note. It could have been the overcast day and the thickly growing trees and the undergrowth that seemed to be pressing in, waiting to invade and take over. Not to mention the mosquitoes pretending to be little flying Draculas. I actually regretted not having my mosquito bat with me to wage a war.
©Shail Mohan 2017