The Burari Deaths: Occult Practices or misleading headlines?

Docuseries House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths starts much needed  conversation on mental health awareness - Film & TV - Images
Docuseries House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths

Souls, spirits in possession, superstitions and rituals; the case of Burari deaths has it all. With the passing of Halloween in close proximity, this Netflix documentary would not fail to be on our watchlist. House of Secrets doesn’t merely open doors to bizarre practices of a family in Burari; but mirrors the concerns lying deep under layers of social stigma and prejudices. A case that definitely raised eyebrows surprisingly failed to sustain conversation around it. What’s more bizarre than an entire family of 11 dying together is its reception by the public. Experts in various disciplines fail to answer all questions. The 2018 event documented by Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra unnerves the viewer while also becoming an inspiration for ever-popular memes.

Patriarchy: The Normal and The Bizzare

kinship of the Chundawat family
kinship of the Chundawat family

In India, The oldest man is usually the patriarch. His wife or the eldest son takes up his duties after his death. The tale of the Chundawat family in Delhi’s Burari area is no different. The youngest son of the family takes charge as the head of the family after his father’s death. What’s unusual is Lalit’s (youngest son) claim to the position. He convinced the entire family to believe him to be a medium of communication with the deceased. One questions the ardent desire of the family to be guided by the deceased more so in absurd ways. The series provides no new information that the viewers aren’t privy to. However, Burari deaths force the viewers to imagine themselves beyond voyeurs of tragedy as a potential neighbor, relative, or acquaintance of the family; even worse become another case like the Burari deaths.

The power to question is the basis of all human progress

Indira Gandhi

Elders should always be respected, and never questioned. Burari deaths bewilders audiences as the entire affair was kept a secret for nothing short of 11 years. The family carried out the rites and rituals with utmost secrecy such that their immediate kins and neighbors were aghast at the news. The binding factor is certainly something more than patriarchy, perhaps a secret that died with the family. Despite the presence of educated individuals and inquisitive children, the family’s staunch belief and ability to preserve the secrets baffles the audience.

Sensationalising Burari Deaths: Mental health concerns take a backseat

The diary entries over 11 years governed their lives. In attempts to sell the news, the media tossed and turned the incidents into the spice of cult practices. People theorized spiritual association from pipelines with supposed numerological evidence. The diaries revealed death to be a part of the salvation ritual. In the rat race of publicity, the media also framed innocent women as an alleged ‘tantrik‘ who tutored the Chundawat family. The document brings to the forefront the harassment faced by a ‘Geeta Mata‘ the daughter of a construction worker.

This unnecessary sensationalization of news shifts our focus from the real issues threatening our society. It makes real-life horrors another category for voyeuristic entertainment. Since mental health imbalances aren’t like a broken limb easily visible to the public eye; its diagnosis becomes more important. In India, where mental illness is taboo, such concerns become a part of family secrets. Even the soul-stirring incident of mass suicide failed to create conversation on the importance of mental health. Whereas. the occult narratives garnered many responses from both producers and consumers of news. The spooky background score and narration from diary entries add to the horrors of the case. Additionally, the docu-series keeps alarming the viewers that the next family who gives in to faith healing might have a similar outcome. Although that isn’t the worse, What is worse? The family might be your acquaintance or even your own.

To believe, to question and to ignore: the tale of Burari deaths that began with the end

The case started with the end of lives sealing away almost all of the crucial information. The diaries are insightful. The diary entries are traced back to the event of Bhopal Singh’s death. The trail of unusual activities began after losing the head of the family. The incidents that followed can also be understood as PTSD or psychosis. The vulnerability of the situation came into light only after the family met with a tragic end.

The family having fun at their last dinner
The family having fun at their last dinner

Narayani Devi’s daughter firmly believed the deaths to be murdered. Like her, all their relatives and neighbors who had attended a happy lavish engagement ceremony hosted by the family would rule out the possibility of mass suicide. The trauma is passed down to all their friends, families, and acquaintances. Every viewer shares the sentiments of the people however unrelated they may be. The docu-series enlightens viewers with different takes on the case. It documents the experiences of journalists, police, and medical practitioners who studied the case. Ignoring mental health, not questioning the absurdity in addition to blind faith led to the Burari deaths.

House of Secrets: Sealing the Burari Deaths

The family at their end
The family at their end

The mysterious end of an 11 member family is hard to believe. It raises innumerable questions. The questions open to a wide range of possibilities. However, they fail to answer any questions. The docuseries in no way attempts to answer these questions that keep lurking in the background. Then, why does it become an engaging watch? The production is honest, amplifying the layers of social stigma; requesting and urging people to speak up before it’s too late.

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