Virus alters logistics of final farewell - - Telling the truth- always!

Virus alters logistics of final farewell

MUMBAI: Never in his 18-year career had Dion Pinto conducted a funeral with no immediate family members of the deceased present. But the undertaker had to do it on Tuesday for a 99-year-old woman whose children are all based abroad and couldn’t come down for the funeral as flights have been cancelled. Two of her relatives were the only mourners present.
Covid-19 has not only upended airport departures, but also final departures. The logistics of grief, too, is virally changing shape as the dead are quietly making their way from the hospital or home to cremation grounds in ambulances bereft of mourners.
Over the past week, Nitesh Mehta, who runs ‘Sarvapooja’, has fulfilled an unprecedented request from at least 15 families. “They asked me to arrange for the body to be fetched directly from the hospital as they were wary of risking infection by getting the body home or holding a ceremony,” says Mehta, who had to hire private ambulance drivers at the last minute to do the job as not many are ready to work amid the scare.
The lockdown has also affected the export of remains. “With flights shut, our daily bookings have come down from eight to about five,” says Pinto, adding that funerals have shrunk from sixhour-long affairs to quick ceremonies that take less than an hour.
Funerals are mutating in the face of the virus. Nitin Paranjape, a pandit, said he has stopped taking bookings for carrying out last rites completely as it’s “too risky”. Another pandit, Shailesh Dongre, said he wears a mask and does not touch the family of the deceased during the ceremony.
Muslim funeral processions have had to do away with namaaz read in the outer portion of the masjid before the body is taken to the cemetery. Masjids have been locked down so the namaaz has to be read at home. “A government notification allows not more than 20 people at the cemetery,” said Shabbar Kabli, administration officer at Mahim Muslim Kabrastan.
The hands that carry coffins and stretchers for a living, too, are scarce. “Fifty per cent of my staff has gone back to their hometowns and the rest are not keen on staying back either,” said Pinto. “The staff is trained on how to handle bodies, but not a virus,” Pinto added.
Antim Sanskar Seva, a not-for-profit service, stopped operations after March 22. “Our men are scared and have not reported to work since Monday,” says Ramnik Parekh, founder of the service. “Typically, there are about 60 to 100 family members at cremations but now that number has reduced to 10,” he says.

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