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Alok Rai

Alok Rai a reader in English at the University of Allahabad, is working on a critical study of George Orwell.

Indira’s India

Alok Rai, 20 December 1984

As Indira Gandhi’s surviving son Rajiv became Prime Minister, and her body lay in state at Teen Murti House – her father’s home and, before that, the home of the Commander-in-Chief of colonial India – international notables converged on New Delhi. It was perhaps the final triumph of one who was so good at hosting such things: Mrs Gandhi’s last summit. Behind high and anxious barriers, the leaders of the world watched sandalwood flames on the orderly bank of the Yamuna reduce the earthly body to ashes. There is something irreducibly strange about the Hindu funeral ceremony, a finality that allows no notions of a soothing organic continuity. Only cinders, crumbling into sterile ash, as the insistent, age-old mantras reinforce the superfluous message of the vanity of earthly aspiration. Meanwhile, on the other bank, in the resettlement colonies, the savage mobs howled.’

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