Life of a crematorium staff an interview
The initial smoke coming from the pyre was covering his face. He was arranging the woods of the pyre, with a straight face. A pink t-shirt with black patches of ash, an old blue jeans the color has faded with time, he was wearing. His eyes were big and beard was thin.
Deepak Sharma, 29 is one of the five crematorium staffs of Niganmbodh Ghat, New Delhi. Nigambodh Ghat is one of the oldest and largest crematoriums of Delhi. Deepak is working here for 22 years. “The first time I came here, I was seven years old,” Deepak recalls. His father died when he was three years old. Deepak said” I don’t remember my father. I have never seen his picture also. In villages at that time who will take picture?” He is from Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. “I don’t remember the exact name of my village,” he said. He left his village after his mother’s death. Deepak doesn’t know how his mother died.
“One of my neighbours brought me to Delhi, because I was looking for job. He said I will get job in Delhi so he brought me and left in the New Delhi station,” Deepak said. Then he met someone who brought him to Nigambodh Ghat. From that time he is here and now he can’t even think a life without this place.
Now Deepak has a family. His wife Rakhi, two years old daughter Anjali, two sons Rohit (11) and Rahul (5) are his life. “I lost my parents. Then I have seen only deaths and everyday I see that. But after whole day’s work when I go home and my hug my daughter, I understand what life is,” he uttered with a smile.
Deepak loves his work. It is just like any other job to him. He believes “this is the job which has given me life. I don’t have any regret. Dead bodies don’t bother me.” Everyday he burns around 30 dead bodies. When everybody of the family members cry, he stands steady and arranges the woods. Deepak explained “I arrange the woods, then put the initial fire. The main job is to tell the mantra for the peace of the soul. Finishing that I put the whole fire.”
He has learned the mantras from the seniors and he knows the meaning of the mantras. “I earn around 1000 RS. per day. I am happy with this money. From this I keep 200, for my daughter’s marriage and the remaining money I give to my wife.” Deepak has a dream that his sons will study till college and then do government job. “I think my daughter should also work and finish the studies. They are in government school but I am trying hard to shift my elder son to an English medium school, Deepak said. “I have never been to school. I don’t know my caste but my job has defined my caste. I want my children to get the best life,” he said and looked at the pyre which is almost burnt.
Deepak has never told the stories of his work to his family. He thinks that they will be scared. “kya deekhaun may mere beti ko? “ (What will I show to my daughter?) “ lush jalana nahi sikhana hay mere bete ko, wo sarkari naukri karega.” (I will not teach cremation work to my son, he will do government job.”)
Keeping a smile on his face Deepak shared that, he loves Salman Khan films. “My mobile is full with Bhai’s movies,” he said. This thin man is a foodie too. “I love Biriyani, once in every year I go to Karim’s to eat Biriyani with my family,” he said with a smile.
A new group of people was waiting for him. He put some sands to the burning pyre and waited till the fire stops burning. He moved to bring woods to form a new pyre. His dreams for his daughter and family will come true one day and he will continue his work with smile and hope.