Suleman Sardar is the volunteer caretaker of the Gora Kabristan - it translates very crudely as the white guys' graveyard - in the Dharampura district of Lahore. It's hidden away just off Infantry Road and as you can see is haphazardly maintained.
But this place, the British Infantry Graveyard as it is formally known, offers an elegiac take on the colonial era.
The cemetery was established more than 200 years ago as a burial place for British soldiers - there's an article about its history here. There are similar cemeteries across South Asia.
Some decades after independence the graveyard was brought back into use for Lahore's Christian community - in Pakistan, often a marginalised and non-privileged group. When I visited a few days ago, there had clearly been some recent interments.
Suleman Sardar - a Christian - describes himself as fighting an uphill battle, without funds or much in the way of support, to preserve the graves and stop encroachment. That may not be the full story - but at least this burial ground is not a complete wilderness as some others in the region are.
Some of the memorial stones reflect the huge loss of life - more often from illness and diseases than in conflict - sustained by British troops and their families while policing and defending the Empire.
The imperial project was wrong and cruel ... but that doesn't mean that we need show no compassion for those agents of Empire who lie buried in places such as Lahore's Gora Kabristan, close to what was once the Mian Mir cantonment.
The matter-of-fact inscriptions on the memorial stones disclose the human cost of imperialism - to the 'goras' as well as those under their yoke.
SACRED TO THE MEMORY
THE 42 OFFICERS N.C.O.s,
PRIVATES, WOMEN & CHILDREN
OF THE FIFTH FUSILIERS
WHO DIED IN THIS STATION
BETWEEN 1871 & 1893
WHO LIE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY
ERECTED BY THEIR COMRADES OF
THE 2nd BN FIFTH FUSILIERS 1930
Lahore was once Rudyard Kipling's city, and in Something of Myself he wrote:
I got to know the soldiery of those days in my visits to Fort Lahore and, in a less degree, at Mian Mir Cantonments. My first and best loved Battalion was the 2nd Fifth Fusiliers, with whom I dined in awed silence a few weeks after I came out ...
So this graveyard is where the 'Tommies' who people Kipling's stories are laid to rest.
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