Image by Jeyaratnam Caniceus from Pixabay 

Recently, with the spike in cases of the pandemic infected patients, the death toll is also increasing. In such a case, the burial or the cremation of the person who has died of the virus becomes impossible as nobody, not even the family members are ready to carry out the funeral rites in fear of getting infected.

At this critical moment, the activities of a social service organisation (NGO) come into the limelight. Putting aside religious differences, a few youths from city-based NGO 'Helping Hands' have taken the responsibility to give a traditional farewell to Covid-19 victims.

Women entering burial grounds or the place where the deceased are cremated is considered a sin in many cultures. But Kanuri Seshu Madhavi, a social activist from Gannavaram near Vijaywada, became an inspiration for the locals when she broke the social taboo by performing the last rites of four unclaimed dead bodies.

Madhavi runs shelters for the elderly, Bala Koteswara Rao Vrudashrama Seva Sangham ( Old Age Home ), at Gannavaram and Veldipadu. Her children who both are graduates of engineering extend help and support to their mother in every way possible. She has also given shelter to many orphaned women who were brought to her by the police and other activists during the first wave of the pandemic.

Vallabhaneni Prasad Rao, a retired engineer from Chinavutupalli ( a nearby village ) praised Madhavi and said that her services have shattered the caste and creed walls, and are exemplary.

'Not everyone can do what she has done. It's a rare thing to see a woman washing wounds of elderly deceased people before their last rites, even without getting any financial support.'

One of the instances of her selfless service can be reflected when she performed the funeral rites of a lady who had died due to Covid-19 while she was in her treatment. She herself shifted the body to a graveyard and performed the final rituals with the help of some employees. Of course, Madhavi has not been supported by the society members in her services as the task is definitely life-threatening at the same time.

Madhavi said that despite her hardships in childhood and after marriage, her conscience to work for the larger societal cause has been shaken. She says that if the families are not able to afford expenses for the conduction of last rites, we bear the expenses believing that serving the needy is next to godliness.

The group has performed the last rites of over 200 people since the pandemic. The NGO has its formation dating back to March 2020. Initially, the volunteers distributed food to the destitute people across the city after the enforcement of the lockdown by the Central Government.

Madhavi says, "I never thought of taking on the task of performing the last rites of the dead. It all started after I came across an elderly woman refusing to take the food distributed by our volunteers. When asked for the reason, she told that none of her relatives are ready to cremate her son who died of the virus. Moved by her plight, we performed the last rites of her son. That was how it all started," She also added that we take all possible precautions while performing the last rites so that none of the team members get infected. After cremation, we preserve the mortal remains of the victim at the burial ground.

The services of the NGO are indeed etching their footprints on the sands of time. Greater support and extension to the organisation will help in triggering many more miracles in the process thereby. Hence, let's extend a hand of support and thought of cooperation to these organisations. As it is said,

'Change begins at home.'

Let's dustbin our crooked perspectives and manipulations which are all diluted by the social taboos and head for the extension of humanism in the world.

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