Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Arthur Cotton: A fruitful sojourn in Vizag

Sir Arthur Cotton, who gained fame and admiration throughout South India by reining in the powerful rivers of the region and is said to have been responsible for the bright green hue that is so integral a feature of the Konaseema region, lived in Vizag for a couple of years (1843-44) to recover from the ‘jungle fever’ that haunted him throughout his stay in the tropics.

His was a genius that could not stay idle even in illness. While nowhere on the scale of the ambitious projects on the Kaveri and the Godavari, Sir Arthur’s work in Vizag was not mean by any measure. He developed the groynes in the sea, which helped break the waves and control erosion. He redesigned and rebuilt St. John’s Church and drew plans for a port in the city.

The family lived in a house among the dilapidated barracks on Dolphin’s Nose, with just one neighbor – the Chaplain – who had built himself a house on the hill. From what Elizabeth Hope, Sir Arthur’s daughter writes in her biography of her father, the view seemed to have compensated for the loneliness of their living quarters: “My mother says of the experience of that time – ‘The view from the Dolphin’s Nose was very fine. The hill rose abruptly from the sea, and the great depth, looked down upon from the top, was sometimes awe-inspiring. Hawks and other large birds of prey above wheeled ceaselessly in circles, uttering their wild, weird cry.”

Hope, Elizabeth, Lady; Digby William, General Sir Arthur Cotton, R.E.K.C.S.I, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1900