In the Holy City a convoy rows down, feeling spiritual via Kodak lens, to see the sun
rise over cremation grounds with smoke still fresh from The Burning. Where orange
sun absorbed in stone glows full in early morning. Men in hiked up lungis, wash
women’s silk saris then hold the ends. They lay them out and make clotheslines on
the sacred ghats. Our Delphic Oracle says that life is best lived next to death. Ahead,
the boats are one hundred silhouettes, with obnoxious shadows invading the deaths of
men and women, with their Kodak lens. Please do not capture the funeral procession,
He says. Take a picture of her instead. He points to an old woman sweeping dust off
the steps. To be a woman here is an albatross; they know what to expect. She looks
up, smiles then asks for some money so they can burn her when she’s dead. We point
and shoot. We row amongst the rotting petals toward coiled smoke, past naked
children, coloured boats and water buffalo, to the neatly stacked wood on funeral
pyres and boys that beg then push a woman half burned, in the water where snapper
turtles are trained to feed on a pound of flesh a day. Where others rub the new corpse
skin with oil, salt and pay ‘untouchables’ an extortionate fee to liberate its soul.
Where cows come to warm themselves by fire and eat the marigolds. From stagnant
water grey steps lead to blackish ashen temples where part burned carcasses are
covered in cloth picked at by children looking for treasure. On the River Ganges our
boat stops and a Delphic oracle says, a life is always better lived when it is next to

By: Hayley Elliott-Ryan

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