Delhi, smoke overspreads your soul, once again

Photo: The New York Times
By Umang Kumar

This time around the smoke that envelops you, Delhi, is not from crops being burnt in the neighboring states. It is rising from your very midst. Not stubble but people, lit on fire.

Of course, crops and humans are part of the circle of life, as depicted in creation myths, Buddhist and Brahmanical.

The Grim Reaper has been ceaselessly making his rounds.

What shall we call you now, Delhi – the Killing Fields, pointing towards another massacre of innocents in recent history?

The people working at crematoriums say they are tired, their hands ache as the bodies keep coming in, non-stop. A man in a video sobbed as he could not handle the scenes of children being offered up to the flames too – too soon.

Tender is the tinder.

Pyre and Fire. Flesh and bones. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes.  

Om Agnim-Iille Purohitam Yajnyasya Devam-Rtvijam.
Om, I praise Agni who is the Purohita (Priest) of the Yajna (Sacrifice), as well as its Ritvij; the Yajna which is directed towards the Devas.

But who ordered this terrible yajna, this grisly sacrifice?

Bodies need oxygen. Fires need oxygen. Fires feeding on bodies starved of oxygen.

And no smoke without a fire, as our philosophers endlessly played with that scenario. Just that there can be no philosophising now. Everything is pratyaksha, in front of our eyes, there is no need for anumana, inference. The pralaya is for all to see.

When was the last time you saw such violence, such devastation, such a carnage, Delhi? During one of the sacks of the city a few hundred years ago, when bodies piled up in your galis and were later burnt, such that the smoke lingered for days after? Who sacked you this time, Delhi, who caused this mayhem? Which tyrant has brought you down to your knees?

Dilli tu saat baar ujadi aur basi. Delhi you were laid to waste seven times and then you came back up seven times.
Can you come back up once again, Delhi, even while gasping for air?

As one of you most famous poet-kings said in another context,
‘Nahin haal-e-Dilli sunaane ke kaabil, ye kissa hai rone aur rulaane ke kaabil
The condition of Delhi is not worth narrating, Delhi’s story is fit for making one cry.

April is indeed the cruellest month. A wasteland of Delhi it has made.

Umang Kumar
 is a writer based in Delhi NCR.


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