Sunday, 7 April 2013

Trip to Kalaigaon, Assam

A potentially successful day trip to Kalaigaon, about 3 hours drive from Guwahati, led me to a potential site for my Great Grandfather's grave.

I arranged to hire a car and a driver for the day (Sunday, 7th April), and we headed for Kalaigaon. When we got there we stopped at the Police Station to get some advice/directions. This led us on a longish route out of Kalaigaon to what was believed to be the nearest British-era cemetery. It turns out that the villages around Kalaigaon are majority Christian, so there are a number of churches around, some dating back to the British era, some much later. However, none of them have cemeteries with them. Another clue led to a burial site on a tea plantation. The graves had been moved from their original site. Though these graves were the right era, none of them had the right name on. Dead end. Back to Kalaigaon.

This time, at the Police Station, instead of the guys in the "General Room", we were led to the office of the Office in Charge. Now things started to look up. Mr Habibur Rahman sat us down, game us tea, and parathas, and made some calls...

One man who turned up, Mr Jayanta Das, is a journalist who lives in Kalaigaon, who, by an amazing coincidence, had recently begun to search for British-era graves. He had found a site with 4 or 5 plots. They had been buried by mud from the Brahmaputra river flooding as recently as the early 2000's. Previously they'd had a small boundary wall which had fallen into neglect in the 1960's. it sounded promising. After some more journalists turned up and "the letter" had been read out, pictures taken, etc (all in the police station), off we all went. In my car I had the police chief, the journalist, and another very helpful man who's name I never found out.

We came to a tea estate in the town itself, and, after the police chief pulling rank to enter the tea gardens, and all of us climbing over a barbed-wire fence, we walked across a field to the likely burial site. Pictures below.

There were a few people around, who were old enough to remember the cemetery and lived practically next door, or who had worked on the tea estate for a long time. They confirmed the layout of the plot, the existence of 5 graves and the boundary wall, and the timing of the floorings which eventually buried the plots.

So, the likely location of Hamilton Charles Gordon's burial site is: 26° 34.121 N, 091° 58.777 E.

I was then asked to give an interview for the local media, and to pose for photos. I was presented with a traditional Assamese scarf, and a VERY large packet of tea, by the Tea Estate people (very very welcome, thankyou).

Then, we dropped off the police chief, and went to Jayanta's house in the town, for a drink, some food, some pictures, and some Wi-Fi (again, all very welcome, thankyou!) which enabled us to exchange emails, Facebook IDs, Blog URLs etc. and finally, back to Kalaigaon.

I discovered that I'd made it to a local newspaper. I'll post up either a URL or a picture of the article.

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