New Delhi: Grief, loss and anguish could be seen aplenty outside the Maulana Azad College mortuary in Delhi Thursday. Grieving families were gathered outside the mortuary to receive the bodies of their loved ones, some in full PPE kits, under the sweltering afternoon sun.
The devastating second wave of the pandemic has overwhelmed the health infrastructure across the country. Almost all states are facing a critical shortage of hospital beds, medicines and even oxygen. Delhi is among the hardest hit, registering a record number of cases and deaths for the past few weeks.
As a result, every day, families gather around mortuaries, waiting for their loved ones to offer a final farewell.
As I stood on the road outside the mortuary, I heard a commotion in an otherwise silent area. A family of four had come to collect the body of a woman, and the pained screams of her children resonated through the air.
Kalamunisha, 41, had spoken to her son Momin earlier in the afternoon. She had told him she was feeling better and was going to be back home soon.
But just a few hours later, after iftar, the family was informed about her death.
The grieving family soon began to be documented by several photojournalists, before the authorities stopped us from taking photos. Civil defence guards appointed for the building barred our entry.
Soon enough, Kalamunisha’s family left the mortuary with her body to perform the last rites. But many such families kept arriving at the mortuary.
One such family comprised a child who had lost his mother to Covid, and was held tightly by his aunt.
And this was a common scene. Relatives were holding each other tight, trying to help each other navigate the pain of losing family.
There were several stories at the mortuary but not all of them could be narrated.
One family could not travel back to their village in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh, with their sister’s body, and had to cremate her in Delhi. In another case, a nephew had to take care of his aunt’s last rites as her own children could not make it.
Several families blamed the government and the health infrastructure for the deaths, not just Covid.
In the two hours that I spent outside the mortuary, 10-12 bodies had been transported to crematoria and graveyards. Within this time, several more bodies were brought from hospitals like G.B. Pant and LNJP. According to one of the ambulance drivers, they have been ferrying at least 40-50 bodies every day.
In the past year, as a photojournalist, I have covered several mortuaries while reporting on the pandemic. But never has there been such a crowd of people just waiting for bodies. Family after family entered the building and it kept going on.
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