Pramila Das: Even when they mourn, they mourn from the margin

Her husband, Shomlal Das quietly preparing for her cremation. They forgot to bring sindhoor. She is a married dead. She must wear sindhoor, someone from the small crowd whispered. They opened the bodybag. Part of her face was smashed, there was barely any hairline. Shomlal sprinkled sindhoor on her face... He pauses and sighs, “the government officer just treat every dead as muslim.”

Even when they mourn, they mourn from the margin
by Nischintapure Nribiggani (Anthropologist in Nishchintapur)

Pramila Rani Das Dead!
Doly Rani Das Missing!
Tema Murmu Missing!
Benu Rani Das Missing!
Suravi Rani Das Missing!
Sushanto Das Dead.
Brazeshwar Das Missing!
Nishikanta Das Missing!

May 3, 2013.

Nine days after the collapse of Rana Plaza, Pramila Rani Das’s (22) body was recovered from the rubble. Her body was crushed. Like many other, she was holding the ID card tight to her chest.

New Bottoms Wave Ltd. Card: 3341. Sewing Assistant. Line A. Date of Birth: 01-Jan-1990. Joining Date: 17-March-2013.

On the back side of her card, she had a photo of her one year old daughter, Papia Rani Das.

Her husband, Shomlal Das quietly preparing for her cremation. They forgot to bring sindhoor. She is a married dead. She must wear sindhoor, someone from the small crowd whispered. They opened the bodybag. Part of her face was smashed, there was barely any hairline. Shomlal sprinkled sindhoor on her face. Silently, her father-in-law took the Kafaner Kapor away that came with the coffin. Rony Chandra Talukdar tells us, ideally, a married hindu woman should go to shmoshan as a beautiful bride wearing colors, not white. He pauses and sighs, “the sarkari officer just treat every dead as muslim.”

Later that evening, Rony leaves us with Leela at Adhar Chandra School premise. Her husband Suvendu Chandra Das is still missing. Rony is trying to prepare a list of all missing hindu workers from Hobyganj and Sunamganj. Some journalist promised to take the list to Suranjit Sengupta, Minister without Portfolio, and a parliament member from Sylhet. Leela has seen all the dead-bodies laying on the floor twice already. She wanted to see them again. In case, she has missed something.

She shows us Suvendu’s picture one more time, so we could memorize his face, and describes the shirt he was wearing that ill-fated morning. Sky blue shirt with small black polka dot. We walk from one body-bag to another. Unidentified: ready for DNA testing. Shireen: identified, brother went home to bring elderly guardian. Shamoly Rani Das (20): unclaimed.

As we walk pass Shamoly, the loud recital of Q’uraan become unsettling for us. To show their sympathy, Dhaka Metropolitan Police has arranged Q’uraan Teloat for the grieving family in loud speaker. Leela moves on, asked volunteer Noman to open the next body bag.

The faint sound of Hari-bol from the near-by temple and shmoshan ghat gets lost in the predominantly muslim soundscape of mourning.

Even when they mourn, they mourn from the margin.

Nischintapure Nribiggani is a collective of radical anthropologists.

Missing: Pramila Das. Husband: Sumalal Das

Missing: Pramila Das. Husband: Shomlal Das

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