A mission to ensure respect for the dead. India News – Times of India – India Times English News

Muzaffarnagar: Shalu Saini, 37, cannot forget the day when she saw an abandoned dead body inside her. Muzaffarnagar neighborhood during the peak of the pandemic.
“He was an old man. His family either did not have money to perform his last rites or were afraid to even come out for the last rites. covid Furious all around,” she told TOI, recalling the time. “The body lay in the open for hours as a more health infrastructure was unable to do much. When the whole day passed and no one cared, I Couldn’t stop himself and came out.
That was the first dead body Saini, a single mother of two children, was cremated. She would perform 200 more funerals alone in those two raging years of the virus, when dozens of bodies were being left behind even by the family.
The cost of cremation was always high, she said, adding that in 2020, it went up to around Rs 5,000 for a funeral. “How helpless were the families. It was the peak Covid months, people lost their jobs, and there was a shortage of wood. ,
Slowly as the rush to kill Kovid waned, people started telling him about “abandoned dead bodies”. Today the average cost of a funeral in Muzaffarnagar is around Rs 4,000. “But that’s still a lot of money, isn’t it?” Saini smiled. However, as stories of his good work spread, people, many of whom were anonymous, started helping him with money.
She has now become a messiah for the poor and the dead. “I get calls from morgues, police, NGOs, slums and crematoriums. It’s a spiritual thing for me, what I do… connects me to the Almighty,” she said.
Saini, who runs a small cloth shop, said, “I have been a single woman since 2013 and have suffered a lot in life. For her 15-year-old children Sakshi and 17-year-old Sumit, her work is an inspiration and is “priceless”.
His neighbors also see him as a shining light. Sonu Sharma, one of her neighbors said, “She not only helps the living when they are unable to collect money to bid a final goodbye to their loved ones, she also makes sure that the dead are given the respect and dignity they deserve. Get the respect they deserve.”
Acknowledging her service, Muzaffarnagar ADM Narendra Bahadur Singh said, “She supports us in many other ways as well. Sometimes by spreading awareness on social issues”.
Kallu Yadav, in-charge of Muzaffarnagar’s crematorium, said, ‘Saini has been coming here since the beginning of Kovid. Whenever she gets the news of unclaimed dead bodies, she is the first to come. She makes all the arrangements and performs the last rites.
And to people like Nikhil Jangra, he is “an angel in human avatar”. Saini performed the last rites of Jangra’s father, a resident of Rohtak in Haryana, during the Kanwar Yatra this time. “My 55-year-old father died in an accident while returning home in Muzaffarnagar. His identity could not be immediately established. Saini performed all the rites,” said Jangra.
It was never a cakewalk though. “For a woman, that too a single mother, nothing comes easy,” she said. “There was a time when people, including my relatives, used to remind me that being a woman, I should not attend the cremation. Many women are not even allowed to go near the cremation ground. ,
Saini has helped in the last rites of more than 500 bodies so far. And continues to make it her mission. “A man struggles from cradle to grave but at least after he dies his mortal remains must be disposed of in a respectful manner. This is our duty,” said Saini.