The Stench of Death

Dr Mehak Burza –

I was in Phuket, Thailand on October 7 getting ready for a day-long boat ride while answering emails about the virtual Holocaust International conference I planned to host a week later from New Delhi – on the 14th of October – when I got an email: ‘perhaps we should postpone the conference because of the Hamas attack?’ Attack? I opened my laptop: it was all there; I was incredulous.

As my family and I hopped on the long tail boat, the pungent scent of exhaust fumes from the boat’s engine created a visceral connection with the ongoing suffering and tragedy. At first glance, this connection between these disparate elements seemed tenuous, but as the acrid smell filled my nostrils, I was transported geographically to Israel, and temporally, back to the Shoah, unimaginable horror and loss.

As I stood on the deck of the boat, enveloped in the suffocating haze of exhaust, I contemplated the heart of darkness, where the air was freshly thick with the stench of death. The piercing odor of burning fuel intertwined with news flashes, lives being snuffed out in a cruel symphony of smoke and ash.

In this olfactory landscape, with the cough-inducing breath and the relentless chugging of the boat’s engine echoed the machinery of destruction, a grim reminder of the industrialized nature of genocide.

Image by Moshe Zaidler