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Death in the family

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; ending: The death bed that is generally prepared by using pine wood is used to take the body for cremation.

KOLKATA, INDIA – 2015. Ending: the death bed that is generally prepared by using pine wood is used to take the body for cremation.

Death in the family, photo essay by Dipjyoti Banik

Death is the inevitable and unavoidable conclusion to life. When we are born, we’re committed to a life sentence. It’s true that we will never know when we’ll die, or how, but we know that it is the ultimate eventuality. Death can also be viewed as an yardstick by which we measure the values and purpose of our lives. As a social animal we humans generally live in groups we call families and our various cultures have different ways of mourning death just as we all react differently to death individually.
Recently one of my uncle passed away and as I got the news I experienced a blend of mixed emotions. He was in a paralytic state for more than a year, slowly withering away, unable to perform even the most basic human task but on the other hand he left behind his wife and two unmarried daughters which in the conventional Indian society meant that he died unfulfilled.
So, being there in midst all that I was overwhelmed by the emotions that surrounded me yet somehow felt disconnected. Tears didn’t come to me unlike his daughter who was understandably devastated having overlooked his medications for more than a year and neither could I feel any other emotions as I have always been disturbed by death,ever since my grandmother passed away when I was 11. So, I decided to take a few photographs. Photographs just to preserve those final moments when his body was to be taken away for cremation and the general mood of the place.Later on I decided to take a few more in the wake of his death also known as Sraddho.
This is more of an incomplete series, but a very intimate one which for me generally reflected the moods after a death in my family.
(by Dipjyoti Banik)

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; memoirs

Memoirs: as his body is mounted on the bed for the last rites, the slipper that he used to wear lies in a corner of the room.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; of the deceased

Garlands are placed as his lifeless body lies still ahead of the final journey to the cremation ghat.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; lingers on

Lingers on: over the yearlong battle, all his medicine files stay in a shelf at the corner of their house, but they all proved to be in vain.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; with us

With us: this is the view that my uncle would generally have for the period of those 1 year when he just used to lay in his bed and stare at the ceiling as he was unable to move in any way what so ever.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; those who knew

Those who knew: family members and relatives assemble to mourn and console each other.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; and in time: Then and now, we are all but mere characters in the hands of time

And in time: then and now, we are all but mere characters in the hands of time.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; it hurts

It hurts: Didi breaks down just as her father’s body is to be taken to cremation.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; desolates us

Desolates us: my aunt looks on with a heavy heart and teary eyes as uncle’s body is taken away for cremation. Indian women are generally not allowed in the burning ghats, so this was her final goodbye to her husband.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; through us

Through us: in customary ways the wake is organised and rituals are followed to ensure the passing on of the soul from this earthly world to the heavenly realms.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; they live

They live: the house which he built a-er moving to Kolkata from Dhanbad will now only house his memories as they live on with his family members.

KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015; and we move on

And we move on: one of my didi flows the ashes of her father as it marks the final step of the journey which they believe completes the passing on of his soul.

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