Gahati, India (AP) – The Ramananda government never wanted to burn dead bodies for a living, but he was in debt and desperate for money.
A 43-year-old man has fled his remote village in the northeastern Indian state of Assam after failing to repay a loan he took to sell sugarcane juice in a wooden cart. But even in the state capital, it was difficult for the government to find enough jobs.
Two years ago, the government walked into a cemetery in Guwahati. The funeral took over the scattered work.
When Hindus believe that funeral rights are sacred and free the soul of a dead person from the cycle of rebirth, they despise those who actually deal with corpses. Of the 6.4 million reported infections, only the corona virus, which has killed more than 100,000 people, has been tainted.
The government thought he had come in line with his reputation, and after hiding for a while he told his wife what his job was. But in early May, he attended what he considered a normal funeral, unaware that the woman had died from COVID-19.
When people found out that the woman was a victim of the corona virus, government acquaintances began to avoid him. The humiliation came again.
State authorities detained him on the ship for a few days, but expelled him because no one was available to do his work at the cemetery.
“I do not understand why people hate me. Is it because I burned dead bodies? The government asked. “If I did not do this, then who would do it?”
The government volunteered and now works at a special cemetery.
With a face mask and a prayer on his lips, he bury the bodies brought by a handful of relatives in protective suits.
More than 181,600 cases of the virus have been reported since the epidemic began, killing 711 people. The government said it had buried about 450 Kovid-19 victims.
Despite vital community service, the impact on the government’s own life is getting worse.
When the landlord heard about the government job, he said he should leave. Thankfully, a district official arranged a hotel room for him.
The government prevented him from returning to the village to visit his family, first the village headman and then the local authorities, representing the villagers themselves.
After a month and a half of not seeing his wife and three sons, the government stormed into the village on a recent rainy night. He called the family from the road outside the house and was able to spend 15 minutes with them and save some money.
“I do not want my children to be buried like me,” the government said. “I want them to go to school and be good people and get respect from the community, not to meet his family in the dark like me.”
On his way to the city, the government decided to rest at a nearby temple, but he was soon told by temple officials to leave.
The government brought it back to the cemeteries and said that despite the personal cost – which includes the risk of infection – the burial mounds of those who lost their lives to the virus would continue to be burned and he would honor them as best he could.
“I may die of COVID-19, but I don’t care,” he said. “I will do my job sincerely until the end.”
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