It was an ordinary tombstone, no larger than the rest nor embellished with anything to indicate that it belonged to a person of some repute.
It was perched on the edge of the Pattoor cemetery, dug up to make space for road widening. The marble block could have easily gone unnoticed but not to one of the youngest members of the Heritage Walk Thiruvananthapuram. U. Adithyan recognised the name engraved on it — Annie Mascarene.
Others in the group were not entirely certain whether it indeed belonged to the freedom fighter and the first woman MP from Kerala. Adithyan needed to know. And so, when he got home after the walk he promptly set about researching this personality and whether her dates of birth and death coincided with the figures marked on the stone. They did.
For archaeologist Bina Thomas Tharakan, who leads this initiative, the fact that the boy was curious enough to find out things on his own was proof of how well the Heritage Walks worked to get the younger generation interested in history. “Exploring and discovering on your own is far better than lecturing about episodes from the past,” she said.
The skies were blessedly clear on Sunday morning when around 20 members of the group took a walk from the General Hospital to Pattoor Junction. This stretch is marked by old buildings and medical institutions set up in the 19th century. For instance, the main building of the General Hospital came up sometime around 1840, primarily to cater to British settlers. Right opposite is the Holy Angels Convent, a charming bungalow of the 1880s that has retained its structure.
Another fascinating nugget of history on this stretch is in the form of the Pattoor Mar Thoma church, believed to be the first Mar Thoma church in the city, around 1920. An old mint factory, now a government stamp press, is another antique structure the group could only admire from the outside.
The group had previously held walks from Pettah to Chakka and also around Valiyashala. Members include Achuthsankar S. Nair, head of the Department of Bioinformatics at Kerala University, and Malayinkeezh Gopalakrishnan, historian and journalist. These walks are investigating the ‘micro-history’ of the city just beyond East Fort.