on December 7, 2001
At first I was a little unsure about visiting a cremation ghat. Not only did it seem voyeuristic, but also I really wasn’t sure I could stomach the odour of burning human flesh. However, devoid of cultural sights after a week in Pokhara I decided we would visit on our return to Kathmandu..
Arriving by taxi, amazingly intact after the driver’s increasingly frantically crossing himself (we know he can’t have been crossing himself but this is what it looked like!) as we drew close that the vehicle was swerving violently, we were immediately surrounded by would-be-guides keen to exploit the Nepalese novelty of cremation. They seemed quite taken aback when we pointed out that Europeans cremate people too, although we kept quiet about not doing it on an open funeral pyre.
Escaping the guides’ attentions we quickly scurried away from the riverbank up the opposite terraced bank, for fear of catching sight of a smouldering limb. Thankfully, as we glanced back at a safe distance, there was just one all but spent pyre, although I was rather unsettled as someone appeared to stoke it violently anxious that something recognisable my fall out.
Overall, perched at a respectful distance on the opposite bank to the sub-continent’s most important Hindu temple I felt pleasantly unobtrusive as the colourful devotees came and went, sprinkling vibrant marigold petals and powder at the water’s edge below. And the stench I had feared was instead a pleasant ceremonial sandalwood aroma, lulling me into accepting what had previously been such a distasteful undertaking.
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