Mourners in protective gear, or watching from home. Long waits at the cremation grounds. The trauma of loss has become both lonely and public.
NEW DELHI — The lifeless are picked up from infected homes by exhausted volunteers, piled into ambulances by hospital workers or carried in the back of auto-rickshaws by grieving relatives.
At the cremation grounds, where the fires only briefly cool off late at night, relatives wait hours for their turn to say goodbye. The scenes are photographed, filmed, broadcast. They are beamed to relatives under lockdown across India. They are shown on news sites and newspapers around the world, putting India’s personal tragedies on display to a global audience.
Local residents record the fires from their roofs to show the world why they must wear masks even inside their homes. The smoke and smell of death is so constant, so thick, that it covers the narrow lanes for much of the day, seeping through shuttered windows.
The flames bear witness to the devastation wrought by India’s Covid-19 crisis. They show the losses in a country where the dead and infected are widely believed to be grossly undercounted. They stand as a rebuke to a government accused of mismanagement by many of its people.