A grave at the Lower Circular Road cemetery in Mallickbazar is somewhat different from the rest. It has red burnt clay tiles with a marble slab on top.
It reads Harendra Coomar Mookerjee. Born 3.10.1877. Died 7.8.1956. Mookerjee was the governor of Bengal and the vice-president of the Constituent Assembly of India.
The grave has recently been restored by the cemetery with expert advice from the non-profit Reach Foundation.
The clay tiles have been cleaned, and repaired and some replaced with new ones, the red cemented border to the grave has been repaired and the marble top is sparkling white.
Mookerjee wore many hats — educationist, philanthropist, prominent Christian leader from Bengal and chairman of the minority rights committee, among others.
He was the first Indian to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Calcutta University. He taught at the university as a lecturer of English and later went on to become a professor and head of the English department.
He was buried at the Mallickbazar cemetery.
Originally, his grave was like that of any of the other graves, said Ronojoy Bose, executive member of the Christian Burial Board that looks after the cemetery.
“We were approached by the late Partha Sengupta of Biswa Kosh Parishad about 20 years ago to do up the grave with burnt clay tiles from Bishnupur to mark it out from the other western-style graves. Mookerjee was a stalwart Bengali, having donated his every penny to Calcutta University. This was one way to pay homage... The Christian Burial Board accepted the proposal and went ahead and did up the grave with these unique tiles,” said Bose.
Since then, the grave had fallen into disrepair. Archaeological engineers and chemists of Reach Foundation, who are restoring tombs at the South Park Street Cemetery, were approached for restoring Mookherjee’s grave, too.
“We replaced the missing and broken burnt clay tiles... The surface has been cleaned,” said Tapan Bhattacharya, retired deputy superintending archaeological engineer, ASI.