Lucknow's electric crematorium has been witnessing an unusual rush of ambulances these past many days as Covid-19-related casualties pile-up. Yesterday, the Uttar Pradesh capital reported 1,333 fresh cases and six deaths -- 41 persons have died in the past week of the infection.
Munna (identified only by his first name) is the city municipal corporation employee, along with three others, handling cremations, and his hands are evidently full. Yesterday alone, they put in a 19-hour shift together, cremating 23 bodies. Two of them, in PPE suits, carry the departed from the ambulances to the incinerator; the other two, including Munna, bleach the first duo.
As NDTV met Munna, his colleagues had just stepped away for a break.
"I'm wearing a mask and praying. Those are the only two things in my control," Munna said.
"It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to cremate a body. We have no hand sanitisers, only the bleach is sent in government tractors. We haven't slept or eaten properly in days. Till we have strength left, we'll work," he said.
Outside the crematorium, it is a desperate wait for the bereaved relatives.
Alok Parakar, an independent journalist, lost his father-in-law to the infection last evening. When NDTV met him today, he had already been there 90 minutes.
"I have been given token number eight. So, it will take 8 hours, at least. I have never dealt with such a situation. First, I fought to save my loved one, now I am fighting to get him cremated," said Mr Parakar.
Another person, Ajay Gupta, had accompanied his friend whose father had passed away last evening.
"The pandemic is such a tragedy. My friend is a doctor. He has saved several lives. But he was not allowed to even take a look. It is terrible," Mr Gupta said.