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Opinion |  At the mass cremations of Covid in India

With the fires lit, I thought of everyone my family and friends had lost over the past year, of all the funerals we couldn’t attend, of all the heartache this town has.

Ms Parakh stood in front of her father’s pyre, talking about what sounded like a WhatsApp group call on her phone.

Nearby, a middle-aged man in a striped t-shirt said to me, pointing to a pyramid of flames: “This is my mother.

“Non-Covid case. It’s a shame that she had to be cremated in the middle of it all.

He had another complaint: “I don’t mind, but the media gives the impression that bodies are being burned all over the place all the time to portray the government in a bad light.”

Are we not in a parking lot among 50 pyres on fire? I asked him.

“Yes,” he replied, “but the media should say, ‘These pyres are lit at the same time, only once a day’, so that people get the right impression.”

“Death is the only truth,” I said.

“Death is the only truth,” he said.

The fire continued for several hours. Small groups of mourners began to leave, their eyes shining with tears held back by fear, frustration, grief, exhaustion, heat, horror and pain. Ms. Parakh and her caretaker got out, got off a rickshaw and returned home to the house she had once shared with her father.

“Remember to come at eight o’clock tomorrow morning to pick up the ashes,” Mr. Mishra told everyone. “We must clear up for the cremations of tomorrow.”

Aman Sethi (@Amannama) is a New Delhi-based journalist and author of “A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi”.

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