Adambakkam residents perform last rites of unclaimed corpses

Members of Anatha Pretha Kainkarya Trust (APKT).

Chennai: At an age and time, little do we think about homeless people and those in need. But going a step ahead, a few Adambakkam residents perform last rites of unclaimed corpses and for those who cannot afford to do so in the city through Thiruvanmiyur-based Anatha Pretha Kainkarya Trust (APKT).

In conversation with News Today, the members of the trust speak about their work.

Previously a resident of Vellore, now put up at Adambakkam, Sampath N V has been doing the noble service of giving a farewell to unclaimed deceased and needy people since five years.

On how it all began, he says, “Back in my hometown, at the post office, a woman from West Bengal asked Rs 5, I ignored. However, it continued to happen for several days. I advised her to toil and earn, rather than beg. Although she had been in the town for about six months for treating her hospitalised husband. To meet the financial needs, she told me that she was into prostitution and she was begging to cremate her husband.”

“I used to be reluctant to spend money back then, however, her situation seemed bad. I decided to help her, took her to Padma Kumar, a jeweller in Vellore, seeking aid and explained him the situation. From my meagre salary, I gave her whatever I was able to, but it came as a surprise and motivated me when he took the entire expense of performing the rituals,” the resident of South Sector, Third Street, adds.

From then he began to extend his duties to society as a citizen. In the last five years, he has buried 450 unclaimed corpses from Vellore, Coimbatore, Kanchipuram and Chennai and has been associated with the trust since two years as an executive member.

Explaining more about their service, the 58-year-old resident who works as a manager at a private company, said, “We come across people from north eastern States. If they are from well-off families, we direct them to Fenn Coffee, who help them do the cremation. If not, we pack the body with mint leaves that preserves for more than 10 days to the respective places.”

In Chennai, he, along with other members from the neighbourhood – Sankar Ganesh, Jayaraman, Brungimalai Saravanan, S Govindaraj and Venkateswaran – get information from old-age homes and government hospitals requesting to perform the funeral.

Talking about the difficulties, he states, “In many hospitals, the legal procedure is arduous and certain people even ask us for bribe although we are shelling out money from our pockets or seek help from friends and philanthropists for doing the service without expecting a penny in return.”

“In case we receive excess funds, we either donate it to the person who accompanies the corpse for their needs.”

After receiving information, they get No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the police and go ahead with the rituals. If the religion of the deceased person is known, the members perform as per the norms mentioned in their text. “In case, the religion is unknown, we recite single stanza from Bible, Quran and Bhagvad Gita,” adds Sampath.

Every time he conducts the final rites, there is always a thought that makes him ponder about. “At the end, it is just the ashes to which we are reduced to. However, we do not realise and cling on to our ego,” he says.

Reach Sampath at 9444940741.

Bhavani Prabhakar