These are the times when fear overpowers grief. Bidding a final farewell to loved ones has become a luxury due to the Covid-1 pandemic. But a group of around ten volunteers in Bengaluru have taken a break from their regular jobs and business to help people cremate their loved ones who died of Covid-19.
Initially, the group started by donating PPE kits to staff at crematoriums and burial grounds. After seeing the sorry state of the dead bodies and the family members there, they decided to help. Now, they get a call almost every time a body has to be buried or cremated. Several hospitals or even the 108 helplines end up calling them. The volunteers, with their PPE kits and face shields on, reach the morgue and collect the body. They help the families with paperwork and shift the body to a burial ground or crematorium as per the family’s choice.
In several instances, even one family members of Covid-19 patients were unable to come close to the body of the loved ones for fear of catching Covid-19. Even when they do, many stand at a distance while these volunteers finish the final rites. A majority of the team members were Muslim and continued their volunteer work despite the month of Roza which recently concluded.
“Maybe in around 2-3 weeks, numbers will reduce and we can get back to our jobs. Even BBMP staff and almost everyone in the area know what we do. So, they call us directly when there is a body in Central Bengaluru. Several members of our team have begun the same thing in different parts of the city wherever they live. Ultimately, all of us will die someday. At least sending off someone with dignity is what we are trying to do here”, says Harun who helps to cremate minimum 10 bodies every day.
They stay till the last layer of soil is pulled on the grave and the body is pushed inside the electric furnace of the crematorium.
All that they ask the family is in what way one wants the final rites to be performed and co-ordinate accordingly. They don’t speak much as everyone in the team knows exactly what to do by now.
Inspired by the group, a number of religious groups have come forward to share the burden. So, whenever there are more bodies than this group can take, they seek the help of respective religious teams. They call themselves Al Ansaar and another similar group Mercy Angels is also helping the covid dead to pass on peacefully in Bengaluru.
All these volunteers get themselves checked for coronavirus at regular intervals. Though they use necessary protective gear, health officials have advised them to get tested. At the end of the day when we go home and sleep, we are at peace knowing we helped at least a few souls rest peacefully though their pain and sufferings here was something that we couldn’t change.