Susan Blick, Death Is Not Finite (Doco/Photojournalism (2018))
Forward we march into death we are all trapped while the cycle of life and rebirth continues (samsara). By escaping this cycle of material hunger the soul reaches a nirvana only to be brought back into this passage of mortality where it is doomed to repeat the cycle all over again. Attaining liberation (moksha) is the aim whereby the soul can be free (mukta) from suffering. It is therfore that funeral pyres and cremations in India hold a major significance in the lives of Hindu worshippers. A body should reach the pyre within 12 hours of death, although this does vary between sects, as family members buy wood-enough it is hoped to fully-cremate the body of the loved one until just ashes remain. For poor families or those without loved ones this is often done and paid for by the State in public crematoriums. They aren’t crematoriums as we would imagine, but open air platforms lined up side-by-side under pillars where a kind of corruption exists with the allocating of wood for burning. Unfortunately for some enough wood isn’t provided and the bones that remain and serreptitiously floated off down the well-positioned river This day in Agra, India I visited a public crematorium and photographed Arjan as he watched his mother being cremated. He seemed distant, as you perhaps would be. I could feel he was lonely in his loss, but thankful for her release from suffering, wishing her a better life next time round. Other family members stood nearby, in a strange, almost eerie existence of a ritual somehow private yet all the while public. Getting access to a burning pyre is a tricky procedure. At first I’m told it is ok, then I’m told it isn’t, then they motion for me to go ahead. Loved ones are mourning, grieving and although I try to feel their pain as I photograph I still feel somewhat numb to what is happening around me as I record this ritual. Femas and large bone joints are visiible as is the partially burned rib cage of Arjan’s dear mother. Finally, for just a short time her soul will rest.