A mission to ensure honour for the dead | India News

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Shalu Saini, 37, can’t forget the day when she saw a body lying unattended Muzaffarnagar neighborhoods during the peak of the pandemic.
“He was an old man. His relatives either did not have the money to cremate him or were too afraid to come out to perform the final rites with him. Covid “She told TOI, recall the time” for hours. The body lying in the open due to the overloaded medical infrastructure could not do much. When the day went by without anyone bothering me, I couldn’t stop myself and walked out. ”
It was the first body of Saini, a mother of two, to be cremated. She will cremate 200 more people, all alone, during the two years of the virus raging as dozens of bodies were abandoned even abandoned by their families.
Cremation costs are always on the high side, she said, adding that by 2020, cremation costs are up to around Rs 5,000 for a funeral. “Families are extremely helpless. Those are the peak months in Covid, people lose their jobs and there’s a shortage of wood.”
Slowly as Covid’s killing journey waned, people began to expose her to “abandoned bodies”. Today, the average cost for 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 her good deeds spread, people, many of them unnamed, began to help her with money.
Now she has become a savior for the poor – and the dead. “I get calls from morgues, police, NGOs, slums and crematoriums. It’s a sacred thing to me, what I do… connects me to the Almighty. ability,” she said.
“I’ve been a single woman since 2013 and have suffered a lot in life,” says Saini, who runs a small garment shop. For her children Sakshi, 15, and Sumit, 17, her work is an inspiration and “priceless”.
Her neighbors also see her as a bright light. Sonu Sharma, one of her neighbours, said: “Not only does she help the living when they cannot gather the money to give their loved ones a final goodbye, she also makes sure the dead receive it. the honor and respect they deserve,” said Sonu Sharma, a neighbor of hers.
Acknowledging her service, Muzaffarnagar ADM Narendra Bahadur Singh said, “She also supports us in various ways. Sometimes by spreading awareness about social issues”.
Kallu Yadav, in charge of one of Muzaffarnagar’s crematoriums, said, “Saini has been coming here since the very beginning of the founding of Covid. Whenever she gets news of unclaimed bodies, she She was the first to arrive. She arranged everything and performed the final rites.”
And for the likes of Nikhil Jangra, she is “an angel in a human avatar”. A resident of Rohtak in Haryana, Jangra’s father was cremated by Saini during this time as kanwar yatra. “My father, 55 years old, died in an accident in Muzaffarnagar while returning home. His identity could not be immediately determined. Saini did all the rituals,” Jangra said.
It was never a walk. “For a woman, being a single mother, nothing is easy,” she said. “There were days when everyone, including my loved ones, reminded me that as a woman, I shouldn’t be involved in cremation. Many women aren’t even allowed near cremation grounds. .”
Saini has so far helped cremate more than 500 bodies. And continuing to do it is our mission. “A man struggles from cradle to grave, but at least after he dies, his remains must be disposed of properly. That’s our duty,” Saini said. “.

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