Uttarakhand septuagenarian shoulders responsibility of COVID cremations


Express News Service

DEHRADUN: A 79-year old caretaker decided to miss the wedding of his grandson on April 25 to give dignified last rites without disruption and hassle in Rajpura crematorium which is now designated for those succumbing to the raging second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Bhrigrashan, the caretaker of the sole crematorium in Haldwani says, “Hardly 3-4 bodies used to arrive here for last rites and now the numbers go up as much as 30-32. I have never seen any such time in my whole life.”

Managing the crematorium for more than 27 years for a trust in Haldwani of Nainital district in Uttarakhand, Bhrigrashan has been working for over 18 hours a day for two weeks now. Famously known as the beloved ‘Munshi ji’ among the people of the city, he adds that the most harrowing experience is to assist parents whose younger ones have gone now.

He manages everything from arranging pure wood from various sources amidst spiking demand to registering the details of the deceased and maintaining the record for further reference in the city of over 3 lakh people.

Replying to the queries of whether he misses his family, Munshi ji says, “I miss them a lot and I always wanted to attend the wedding of my grandchildren but then this work is more important. My children and grandchildren miss me but they encouraged me to help and give my services here.”

The seniors in the trust had sanctioned his leave but he refused to budge. 

Rambabu Jaiswal, an official from the trust told TNIE, “We knew about his grandson’s wedding for which he asked for leave and we sanctioned it. Later, he came to us requesting to cancel. We told him the work here will be managed. He got angry and told us that without him it will be a mess and he is not going.”

“I know everything in here and suddenly a new person will feel overwhelmed and people will suffer unnecessarily I thought. Losing one’s family is enough pain. At least I can help them in the last rites. I have lived my life and experienced much of it. I am not afraid of getting infected and dying,” he quips philosophically

Uttarakhand has lost 2731 lives since the first case was detected in March 2020 in the state. Nainital district ranks second with 408 deaths while Dehradun tops the list with 1549 and Haridwar holds the third rank with 258 deaths.

The total number of active cases reached 51127 with 5493 new cases on Saturday. 

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