You dont have to read this one, but I had to record it as I felt it.
On my twitter someone directed me to pics that churned my senses, but also caused me to question myself. I was going to retweet them. But stopped myself. Why am I damming others to spend a night awake trying to push those images out of your mind ?
The pictures were on a Chinese blog and talked about what a dirty country India was. My shackles were up immediately. Its fine for us to criticize our own, but when others do so, you throw a protective blanket around yourself and all that you consider yours.
The pics were horrendous. Most of them of dead human carcasses floating in the Ganges at various states of decay. I spent a some time wondering what word to use here. First I wrote ‘bodies’. But that is still a human term. Its almost what is left behind whole when we die. Or life leaves us. It is still in a state of preservation. Something to be revered in its last rites, before we bury, burn, throw to the vultures etc.
Or in this case just float way in India’s holiest river. The Ganga.
I then wrote the word corpse. Yet a corpse too is something respectful. Usually used in wartime. Or in urban warfare. Or in police files in cases of murder. These were just rotting human carcasses. Some in such states of decay that even the most terrifying images in horror films would be no match for these.
All floating by people on boats. By children swimming. By people bathing and even drinking from the holy waters of the Ganga. As the bloated carcasses drifted slowly by. Often with crows and other birds of prey pecking at the flesh that remained. Often with the intestines out being dragged along. Mostly with eyes and a lot of flesh ripped out or simply rotted away. Sorry to be so explicit but I promise you words mean nothing if I showed you the pictures.
My first reaction was disgust. The whole psyche revolted. The words came screaming up. Unhygienic. Uncivilized. Followed very closely by extreme anger.
What is wrong with us ? How can we let this happen ? Why are we so uncivilized and dirty. How can people, my people, even swim, bathe, drink from the waters with these …. these … things go by. I looked again and again. Getting angrier and angrier. More and more disgusted.
Till I questioned myself. What revolted me more ? Yes matters of hygiene, cleanliness, civilization, pollution, respect for the human body etc etc. But was there something deeper ?
Was I looking at true images of the reality of my own mortality ? I always imagine my mortality as event. Funeral pyre. Chanting priests etc etc, but often take it further into spiritual ethereality. Ideas encompassing Vedantic philosophies of the body being just an appendage. Of all of life being a mere illusion. Of ‘Time’ never beginning and never ending. Of consciousness being eternal and the true self.
Yes. I have indulged. I have believed. I still do.
But what my whole being was screaming at was me looking at these rotting carcasses , intestines splayed out, half the face missing, bloated out of shape, and visualizing myself. This was ultimately my body/carcass. May just as well be. Casually floating by as life goes on. People praying, swimming, traveling on boats, laughing, bathing as my body/carcass floated by unnoticed. The casualness of it was unacceptable.
But then Death is casual. These were not bodies of people caught in a war zone, or in concentration camp. These were bodies/carcasses of people trapped in the ordinariness of life. And of Death. And that overwhelming feeling of panic is what I wanted to always remember. So I put it down in all honesty.
And then I realized. I , who speak about life and death in so many philosophical terms. Have written words and poems about them. I have yet not been able to come to terms with the ordinariness of Mortality.
That my perception of the carcass/body should be no different from that of a leaf that is drying and about to be crushed back into the earth. Why do I see one as beauty and the other with disgust, other than for reasons of my addiction to my body ?
I will still fight for the Ganga to be cleaned. For bodies not to be thrown into the river. For pollution to be stopped. For standards of hygiene to be raised. Even as I know that the people that are throwing the body into the Holy River are doing so because they are unable to afford firewood for the funeral.
I will fight, but knowing that in its most confrontational avatar, the Holy Ganges gave me lesson. About my addiction to my body, and the fear of its decay,