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You wouldn't bury your dog here
Prem Panicker | May 15, 2007 17:56 IST
Last Updated: May 15, 2007 19:03 IST
The stench is the first landmark: the overpoweringly putrid stench of death and decay.
Pallavi and Sourav Chubey, a young Delhi couple, drove with family and select friends in the direction of the rancid odor, bearing their heart-breaking burden � one-and-a-half-year-old son Raghav, who on April 6 had died of natural causes.
They were looking to give their child, who they had just learnt to love, a final, fitting farewell.
They arrived at Bachcha Ghat, under the iron bridge across the Yamuna that leads to Shahadra, and looked around in horror and increasing despair.
Bordered on one side by a festering pool of untreated sewage, the patch of unkempt land resembled nothing so much as a garbage dump in extreme decay.
The area was dotted with little stone 'crypts' -- rough stones arranged in a loose circle, with a big stone on top of a mound in the center. Amid the filth, incongruously, lay the occasional heaps of floral offerings.
Scattered amid the flowers and the ersatz stone crypts, they saw discarded children's clothing. A young boy, not yet in his teens, wandered around collecting the discards, seemingly oblivious to the horrendous smell. He bundled up his booty, tossed it into a little boat 'parked' at the edge of the pond, and poled his way through the bubbling, festering sewage.
As the horror-struck couple turned to leave, they saw a near-naked man stumbling towards them in an advanced state of inebriation. Lurching to a stop in front of Pallavi and Sourav, who winced from the blast of alcohol-laden breath, the man asked, 'You have a child you want to bury?
'You can bury him here.'
In the distance, a fully naked man wandered around, spewing obscenities at nothing and no one in particular. Among the 'graves' wandered stray curs; the couple's grief welled up afresh when they realized the dogs were scavenging among the 'graves', digging through them, for 'food'.
They asked for the management; they were told by the drunk that he was it. 'Do you want to bury the child or no? If you like, you can also put the body in that pond,' he offered, pointing to the noisome 'pond' of sewage.
It was, he explained, part of the Yamuna river; ergo 'holy', and fitting for a child's burial.
'You can bury your child here,' the drunk 'management' insisted. 'You won't be allowed to anywhere else.'
With no other option, with hearts breaking anew from this final indignity they were about to inflict on a child they had given birth to and seen snatched by untimely death, Pallavi and Sourav, with their relatives and friends helping, scooped out a final resting place for their child, amid similar 'graves' in Bachcha Ghat.
They interred the body, covered it with soil, and weighted down the area with what stones they could find, trying to provide some protection for the baby from the scavenging curs, and then they drove away.
"You wouldn't have buried your dog there, if you had the option," advocate and family friend Rahul Mehra says.