[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]
Flames crackle over the wails and prayers of grieving families as they mourn loved ones laid on funeral pyres that burn through the night in New Delhi.
As India’s second wave of coronavirus sweeps through the country, bodies are piling up faster than workers can cremate them or build new pyres.
“Before the pandemic, we used to cremate eight to 10 people (daily),” said Jitender Singh Shunty, head of the Seemapuri crematorium in eastern New Delhi. “Now, we are cremating 100 to 120 a day.”
Demand is so high that Seemapuri crematorium has expanded into its parking lot, where dozens of workers construct new cremation platforms from bricks and mortar. There is so little space and so many bodies that families have to get a ticket and wait in line for their turn.
So many fires have been lit in New Delhi that wood stocks are running low.
On Tuesday, Jai Prakash, the mayor of North Delhi, wrote a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking that the forest department provide a steady supply.
In the meantime, families are having to pay for the wood to burn their relatives’ bodies. Many see no choice, as they jockey for space at crowded crematoriums.
Cremation is considered an important part of Hindu funeral rites, due to the belief the body must be destroyed for the soul to proceed to reincarnation.
Barkha Dutt, a columnist at the Washington Post, lost her father to Covid-19 this week after he was ferried to the hospital on a faulty oxygen cylinder.
“When we went to cremate him, there was no space at the cremation ground — there was a physical fight that erupted between multiple families,” she said Wednesday. “We had to call the police to cremate my father.”
“Despite my devastation, I was luckier than most Indians,” Dutt added. “I think of the families that need cremation grounds, where bodies have been lying on the floor.”
‘They keep coming’
India reported almost 380,000 new infections on Thursday, marking yet another global record for the highest single-day case count. More than 3,600 people died.
Delhi’s facilities have been cremating more than 600 bodies daily for the past week. This is double the official daily death toll for the city, and an indicator there may be a major underreporting problem.
“We start getting bodies in the morning and they keep coming in one after the other,” said Suman Kumar Gupta, an official at Delhi’s Nigambodh Ghat cremation site, on Wednesday.
For workers and volunteers at the crematorium, handling hundreds of bodies daily and witnessing a constant outpouring of anguish takes a heavy toll. At the Seemapuri crematorium, a number of exhausted volunteers slumped against a wall, getting a little precious sleep before continuing with their work.
In between building the additional pyres and bringing out bodies, Shunty, the crematorium head, sits with grieving families to offer comfort and support.
“We have cremated 55 bodies in the last five hours … (It) will be 100 by the end of the day,” he said on Wednesday morning. “I am tired — but this is not the time to get tired. This is the time to work for the nation, for humanity, and save lives.”
The most harrowing part of his job, however, was seeing “young people die of Covid,” Shunty said. “We have seen families who lost two to three young family members. I don’t know what has happened to Delhi — it’s really disheartening.”
Data from the government’s Covid-19 task force suggests young people are being infected at similar rates as the first wave. But experts, medical workers, crematorium staff and politicians warn that the sheer number of new cases and deaths suggest young people are being seriously impacted.
crackle /ˈkræk.əl/ (v): kêu tanh tách (tiếng lửa cháy)
wail /weɪl/ (v, n): than khóc, kêu gào, tiếng than khóc
grieving /ˈɡriː.vɪŋ/ (adj): đau buồn (vì ai đó qua đời)
mourn /mɔːn/ (v): tiếc thương
pyre /paɪər/ (n): giàn hỏa táng
sweep through sth /swiːp/ [B2] (v): quét qua, tràn qua
pile up /paɪl/ (v): chất đống
cremate /krɪˈmeɪt/ (v): hỏa táng
crematorium /ˌkrem.əˈtɔː.ri.əm/ (n): lò hỏa táng
mortar /ˈmɔː.tər/ (n): vữa
chief minister /tʃiːf ˈmɪn.ɪ.stər/ (n): Thủ hiến
jockey /ˈdʒɒk.i/ (v): tranh giành vị trí bằng mọi máng khóe có thể
rite /raɪt/ (n): nghi thức
reincarnation /ˌriː.ɪn.kɑːˈneɪ.ʃən/ (n): đầu thai
ferry sth to somewhere /ˈfer.i/ (v): đưa đến đâu đó
cylinder /ˈsɪl.ɪn.dər/ (n): bình
erupt /ɪˈrʌpt/ (v): nổ ra
death toll /deθ təʊl/ (n): số người chết
indicator /ˈɪn.dɪ.keɪ.tər/ [C2] (n): chỉ số
outpouring /ˈaʊtˌpɔː.rɪŋ/ (n): dạt dào (cảm xúc)
anguish /ˈæŋ.ɡwɪʃ/ (n): nỗi thống khổ
take a toll (idiom): gây thiệt hại
slump /slʌmp/ (v): ngồi sụp xuống
harrowing /ˈhær.əʊ.ɪŋ/ (adj): đau lòng
disheartening /dɪsˈhɑː.tən.ɪŋ/ (adj): đau lòng
sheer /ʃɪər/ [C1] (adj): lớn
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