“A respectful burial or cremation is the least that a person deserves post their demise. But in a country like ours, where abandoning aged-parents has unfortunately become the fad of the day, there’s a staggering increase in the number of unclaimed corpses one comes across on a day-to-day basis.
And I witnessed this first hand as a college student in Tanjore when an old man, on the verge of death was panting heavily, out of thirst. Unbearable to see another person in that plight, I offered him some water post which he’d put his head down, satiated, and quietly passed away. I then went ahead to understand all the formalities and give the man a proper funeral. All this happened barely within a day’s time but the scar it left was enough to make sure that I was never the same person again.
Now although I was active in social service through food and blood donation drives earlier, this incident made me steer towards creating a change in the mortality space. So I went ahead and started Uravugal Trust, an NGO that aimed at providing respectful burials for the homeless.
The move definitely came as a shock to my family and many other peers but I was determined to face the obstacles. And as expected there were tons! Starting from being unwelcomed in public gatherings to the kind of name-calling we faced to even the scorn amongst close circles sometimes, there was an enormous amount of backlash, simply because the subject we dealt with was uncomfortable for people to acknowledge as valid.
But then again, with over 500 volunteers and 2000 burials today, to our credit, I can safely say that the tables have turned. In fact, if any bodies lie unattended on our roads, Uravugal is the first organization the police also reach out to! What’s better is that our work has garnered the attention of the naysayers too, who flock our office in packs inviting me to spearhead many of the events they previously restricted me from attending.
Nevertheless, despite all the credit, what I personally wish for is to bring the rates of homelessness and ensure that no one experiences the dire reality in their last days. Death is, of course, inevitable, but the one thing we can do as a society is take care of our elders and ensure at least our loved ones go through a happy closure!”