Nungambakkam burial ground officer talks about work, life & death

A view of Nungambakkam burial ground.

Chennai: As ironic as it might seem, the word ‘death’, gets *Kumaran talking. As a burial in-charge officer for the last three decades, he currently heads the Nungambakkam ground.

In a chat with News Today, he shares his thoughts about work, life and death.

“I have seen people die because of old age, alcohol, accidents and even murder,” he begins, adding, “My work has taught me that life is unpredictable. We never know what can happen to us.”

Explaining about his job, he says, “After receiving the required documents, we make arrangements to dig a grave or set the electric cremation unit ready. I come here at 7 am every day. However, I don’t know when I’ll return home. Death has no holiday. It waits for none.”

“Sometimes, relatives request us to wait. They say that some family members are yet to come from other cities. So we wait until midnight too. This is the least we can do, for they will never see their loved ones again,” he sighs.

The officer remembers the first time he saw a dead person. “I cried as I was scared. But today, I can walk around here blindfolded,” he states. The job requires a lot of patience.

“People will be in shock and denial. Naturally, they’ll show their anger on others,” says Kumaran. “But I never retaliate. Instead, I assure them that we will do the final rites in the right manner. Such words instantly calm them,” he states.

Revealing the dark side of his work, he notes, “You can tell a dead person’s character by how his relatives act in his/ her funeral. I’ve seen families verbally abuse each other to claim rights over the property of the dead. Empathy is lost at such moments.”

He has also witnessed instances when people try to bury their kin with fake documents. “I never encourage this and report to the police, if I find any discrepancies,” he concludes.

(*Name changed on request)

Their acts…
Narrating the behaviour pattern of people who come to visit graves, Kumaran flashes a grim smile.
“Some offer prayers and sit for a while.”
Suddenly bursting into fits of restrained laughter, he adds, “Alcoholics drain booze all over their friends’ graves. They hope that the dead enjoy a swig. It is ridiculous!”


Mohammed Rayaan