We travelled five thousand miles to arrive at death;
A public ceremony at the foot of a ghat.
Three thousand rupees worth of wood
Fashioned into a makeshift bed
For a permanent sleeper.

The fire is to purify the soul
Which presumably is prone to catching sin as you
Would a cold. Exceptions are made for
The pregnant dead - mother protected
By the innocence of her spermed egg.
And priests whose self-proclaimed virtue
Saves them from the gruesome grill.

Down the shore at another ghat,
Is a festival of light and chant
Celebrating the holy river
Which, despite being highly toxic,
Is surprisingly velvet to the touch
And un-perfumed with what you might expect:
Burnt corpses and animal excrement.

Soaring above the temples is an
Electric crematorium,
Modern, affordable, glum.
Its twin towers offer the sky
An endless stream of white scum,
Tinged - if you’re that way inclined -
With the souls of slum dwellers.
A reminder, that here too,
There will be a change of weather.

Hassan Abdulrazzak



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If you have any comments on this poem, or on the photographs, Hassan Abdulrazzak would be pleased to hear them.