When you step off a wooden boat onto the banks of the burning ghat in the oldest of India’s cities and you weave through a maze of funeral pyres hissing, steaming, and spitting orange embers into an inky night and you feel the metronome clang of bells vibrating inside your chest and a wave of furnace-like heat consuming everything in its reach, you realize how removed you truly are from the ritual of death.
I’ve traveled through international hot spots where life is cheap. I’ve also lost my fair share of friends and family. I don’t feel sheltered from the bony hand of death. But when I stepped on Varanasi’s famous cremation ghat, which runs 24/7, burning hundreds of bodies a