Poona University was always known for its verdant surroundings great British Architecture and immaculate gardens. Bang opposite main building's frontal garden, a series of descending steps take you to a lower level garden, known as 'Alice Garden' .
This passage goes through arch of century old banyan trees on both sides of the steps.
It’s aerial roots have grown to form this spectacular archway. On the lower level you come to another sprawling botanical garden . There is a lotus pond inside. Few steps after entering this lower level garden, on the right side you see an old grey grave without headboard.
Since my visit I was curious to know about whose remains lie below the grave.
Sometime back I stumbled on a clip from Times Of India. It unfolded the shrouded history pieced together by a historian journalist from Delhi He was Mr.Amit Ranjan .
The grave rests the remains of a young lady of 26 years of age.
“ Alice Richman” born in Melrose -South Australia on 13th November 1866.
Alice was niece of Bombay's erstwhile Governor Sir James Fergusson.( whose name is borne by famous Fergusson College)
The University main building was residence for the Governor when he used to be in Pune (when present Savitribai Phule University was non existent).
Alice had traveled to India for vacation, to spend her holidays with her uncle and Aunt Olive Fergusson.
Alice while staying with uncle,was struck by nasty bout of Cholera , running riots in those days. The infection was caught by Alice and Fergusson's wife Olive, Olive was shifted to Bombay for treatment but died a week ahead of Alice. James Fergusson escaped the infection as he was travelling to Baroda.
Alice succumbed to Cholera in Pune on 14 th January 1882.
Another anecdotal story attributes her death to suicide.
This was on account of her failed and unrequited love affair with a native lad.( The lad committed suicide followed by Alice ).
However the inscription on the side of the grave mentions that she died of Cholera .
The grey grave lies defaced and decrepit.
Eerie tales started circulating of Alice’s appearance at night with a long gown and candle in hand, walking through long corridors of building, made it further spooky.
This was right out of old time movies like 'Mahal' ( Madhubala ).
Whatever may be the truth, this eerie grave amongst verdant greens still sends chills up your spine!
Rest In Peace Alice!
Footnote:- Amit Ranjan while in Massorie for his P.H.D. Work stumbled on a old book of Australian poets.
There he found one poem dedicated to Alice Richman by Margaret Thomas which convinced him about Alice’s roots with Australia.
He was writing a fictional book centred around Alice's story as central theme
Photos are not clicked by me. They are for representational purposes only. Rights of the photos lie with the original owners of the photos.