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AP PHOTOS: Scarf, comb show changes to Hindu cremation rites

AP PHOTOS: Scarf, comb show changes to Hindu cremation rites

By ANUPAM NATH Associated PressJuly 10, 2021, 10:29 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleGAUHATI, India — A comb. A toothbrush. A bangle. A cotton scarf — protection from the summer heat now used as a face mask.The personal belongings of cremated COVID-19 victims lie strewn around the grounds of the Ulubari cremation ground in Gauhati, the biggest city in India’s remote northeast.It’s a fundamental change from the rites and traditions that surround death in the Hindu religion. And, perhaps, also reflects the grim fears grieving people — shaken by the deaths of their loved ones — have of the coronavirus in India, where more than 405,000 people have died.Hindus believe cremation of the body frees the soul so it can be reborn, and they often burn belongings that were with the body at the time of the death.The belongings of the COVID-19 victims are left behind because of fear of touching them. They are scattered around the entire grounds of the Ulubari crematorium, particularly where the pyres are lit.India’s devastating virus surge in April and May left families and patients pleading for oxygen outside hospitals, the relatives weeping in the street as their loved ones died while waiting for treatment. Crematoriums were overwhelmed and often lit around the clock.Infections are declining, but authorities are pushing to increase vaccinations as they prepare for another possible surge.

Locked shops confront buyers in Indian market

Locked shops confront buyers in Indian market

By ANUPAM NATH Associated PressJune 27, 2021, 4:13 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleGAUHATI, India — Rows of locked shops confront bargain-hunters for most of the day in Fancy Bazar, a nearly 200-year-old market that offered cheap prices until the COVID-19 pandemic hit Gauhati, the biggest city in India’s remote northeast.Lockdown restrictions imposed in April have now been partially eased, but shop owners are struggling to recapture the market’s bustling activity and complain that the 1 p.m. curfew is too early.Shoppers seem to prefer evening hours to escape the summer heat. The market is deserted in the afternoon, with no business for the thousands of small and big shops.“We are having a tough time with my shop only open for limited hours. On some days, I don’t have a single customer,” said Bhaskar Jyoti Kalita, who sells Assam silk.Kalita, 43, said he has to support his parents, his wife and two children. “It’s very hard for our family without any sale,” he said.Fancy Bazar was established by a trader from western Rajasthan state after he sailed to Assam state in 1828.The labyrinth of alleys is crammed with shops selling exotic silk fabrics, handmade toys, cane and bamboo products and home décor. It’s also a wholesale market for rice, lentils, fruits, vegetables, flowers, garments and medicines.Gauhati, the Assam state capital, is the main trading hub for India’s eight remote northeastern states with a population of 45 million.Rupam Gosawmi, chairman of the Assam State Chamber of Commerce, said business has been badly hit by the pandemic restrictions, but the priority is to save lives. “With the rate of infections coming down, I expect a further easing of restrictions by mid-July,” he said.