An idyllic setting on an Indian lake still hides dark secrets..
Born in 1759, in England, Thomas Snodgrass entered the East India Company as a 'Writer' or clerk at the age of 18. Through perseverance he became a 'Collector' a tax collector for Ganjam District in Eastern India from 1791-1797. He built a waterside mansion with stabling for horses and elephants and a tiny stone building on a rocky outcrop on the lake.
Meanwhile revenues from the district had fallen and questions were asked. He had developed a lavish lifestyle, almost Princely, hunting and trapping and welcoming English visitors. Boats were not allowed near the island, which often had a beacon lighting it's presence.
Letters were sent from the company office in Madras. These were either ignored or had a curt response. Files stored in the India Office Records reveal accusations of "mismanagement" , "corruption" and "disrespect". As time went on, he spent more and more time on the island. It became his principle office.
A "Mr. Brown" was sent to relieve him of his post, but Snodgrass threatened to shoot him. All this was too much for the Governor and a group of soldiers were sent. The area was inaccessible during the Monsoon season and the party was sent over land. Snodgrass had early warning of their arrival. He ordered all the paperwork to be put on a boat.The boat sank, with its cargo, to a deep part of the lake. Snodgrass maintained it was an accident. It was certainly a novel approach to bookkeeping !
Was he an innocent public servant, or had he been beguiled by the beautiful isolation? Had he used the remoteness to further his own gains? Eventually, he was removed from office without any pension.
Some years later, a dishevelled and bearded figure was seen sweeping the street, outside India House in London .(The East India Company offices). He was keen to tell every passer by how, as a loyal servant of over 30 years, he had been mistreated. It was of course, our friend, Thomas Snodgrass. Such was the embarrasment it caused, the company eventually relented and gave him a pension.
He shortly returned in a coach with four horses and dressed in a frock coat and top hat to thank his former employees!
Had he really been a victim? Would the passage of over 200 years destroy any submerged papers completely? or will someday the tranquil waters of Lake Chilika finally reveal the truth?
We offer a dish made for Thomas Snodgrass, with his arms.