Zindan Central Cemetery [Part 1]
Updated: May 18
Zindan Central Cemetery was created to solve the problem of lofty internments. But, like all solutions to truly complicated matters, it merely traded old problems for new.
If you could visit our country as it was fifty years ago, you could be forgiven for coming to the mistaken conclusion that securing lofty interments for the deceased was a centuries-old tradition, woven into the fabric of our culture. It was not so! Yes, I concede the idea of lofty internments was old. If fact, it can be traced back to an obscure poem by a nameless 13th century poet:
Bury me above the rest
Higher on a hill than all others in death
So that I may look down from my grave
My height reflecting the loft my life my spirit gave
These words moldered in obscurity for centuries, known only to the rare academics who would emerge, singularly, every century or two, to ponder the meaning and significance of the poetry of the 1200s. Until, miraculously, these words found new life in a song.
Put to a melancholy melody, sung by a popular singer, and broadcast on the national airwaves, the poem instilled a form of mania in the population. The phenomenon of lofty internments started as a novelty when a family buried their deceased patriarch at the top of Jaimon hill. Only one month later, the problem of lofty internments was already serious enough to merit a special police effort to prevent illegal burials on Jaimon hill. Within another month there were scores of illegal burials at the tops of dozens of lesser hills in the capital.
New fences were installed surrounding the hilltop parks, not just in the capital but in all the regions. Curfews. Fines. Imprisonment for family members caught interring their dead relatives at the highest point on the landscape they could access. With each new measure put in place to stop the practice, lofty internments became even more popular.
Greater and greater effort on the part of the police, and eventually even the Army, managed to stifle the flow of corpses uphill. But the population (we are an industrious and clever people!) found a new way to secure lofty internments for their beloved. Cemeteries were created on the rooftops of tall apartment buildings.
The tall buildings in our cities were not designed to support rooftop cemeteries. Each rainstorm brought a fresh set of building collapses when the already heavy soil that had been haphazardly piled on rooftops to hold the dead absorbed tons of water.
The police began air patrols of urban areas, searching for illegal rooftop cemeteries. This measure only shifted the problem downwards a few meters. Illegal mausoleums were created in the apartments on the top floors of tall buildings, and the bereaved would secretly haul their dead up the stairwells to lay them to rest dozens of stories above street level.
It was this step in the evolution of the practice of lofty internments that finally turned the collective will of the people. A cemetery on the roof was one thing, but living with corpses, corpses with great variability in the methods of their preparation and the quality of the containers to house them, interred in the very walls of your home, is another.
The government seized on this change in the national mood and declared that all deceased, both future and those currently interred illegally on hilltops, roofs, and apartment walls, must be buried in one central location. A central cemetery for all of the nation's internments.
The Zindan valley was chosen as the location of the Central Cemetery due to its utterly featureless terrain. You can easily draw a line across a map of the valley without crossing a one-meter contour. With all graves existing at the same elevation, give or take a centimeter or two, the urge to bury one's deceased higher than all others would be permanently stifled.
Was this truly the best course of action? Perhaps the government acted too hastily. Perhaps the national mood had permanently soured to the idea of lofty internments and the problem would have vanished on its own. We will never know. Within only a few weeks, ten thousand hectares of land in the valley had been appropriated. Hundreds of tenders were issued for construction of new roads, new train stations, and special funeral carriages to bring the dead to Zindan by rail. Even more funds were allocated for the abatement of the rooftop cemeteries and illegal mausoleums. A national media campaign was launched that was so intense it seemed that the radio contained sporadic music and news wedged into the narrow timeslots between announcements regarding Zindan. The existence of Zindan Central Cemetery had become as inevitable as death itself.
The cemetery was completed months ahead of schedule and soon the nation's dead flowed into Zindan. The newly created Central Internment Bureau ran an uncharacteristically smooth and efficient government operation, and the meticulously leveled ground of the cemetery began to fill with the nation's dead.
The problem of lofty internments was, for a moment, completely solved. Praises were sung of the national leadership. Of the nature of our government that made such a decisive and logistically complex program possible. Of the unique qualities of our national character. But Zindan Central Cemetery's problems had just begun. It started with the goats.