The visitor to the Kilpauk Old Cemetery cannot escape these ponds. A short distance past the portals, there are two ponds of strikingly different dimensions on the left, and another on the right.
Fenced more by unruly vegetation than trees, and with floating algae forming a carpet of green, these ponds can hardly adorn a picture postcard. But their importance cannot be over-emphasised.
Members managing the cemetery say that as far as their memory goes the ponds have never dried up.
Years ago, when the Madras Cemeteries Board Trust, which maintains the facility at Kilpauk and Kasimedu, were debating about closing the ponds to make space for burials, experts dissuaded them from taking that step.
“Do not touch the ponds or the surrounding locality will be flooded was a piece of advice given by a few experts,” says S Bosco Alangar Raj, secretary of the Madras Cemeteries Board Trust. “We thought of having a floating chapel but that idea was dropped.”
The Trust is happy they took the advice. There is no water stagnation and the ground water table gets recharged.
“Even during the worst of rains, the cemetery has never experienced water logging,” says Bosco.
The Trust has not made any modifications in and around the natural ponds, says Bosco. “We have not desilted the ponds too as there are a number of living creatures that would get distributed,” he says. Currently, all the rainwater that falls in the premises of the cemetery enter these ponds.
“During extreme summer, one can see 10 inches of water in the biggest of the three ponds, and two inches in the smaller ones. Currently, the big pond has three-fourth level of water; and in the others one cannot see the water because of the vegetation,” he says.
Spread across 16 acres, the cemetery has graves starting from 1901. The administrative staff often come across foreigners and non-resident Indians looking for an ancestor’s grave.