The number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and deaths from infection in Mysuru have been increasing rapidly every day. Over the last 13 months, ever since the pandemic began, a total of 1,144 persons have succumbed to COVID-19 so far.
Amidst reports of unimaginable suffering, it is disturbing to see how the pandemic has taken away the possibility of giving the dear departed ones a proper funeral. Reports of family members unable to attend the last rites of their deceased kin owing to quarantine, fear of getting infected and social distancing protocols have been heart-rending.
Emerging as a silver line amidst dark clouds, here is a story of a man who provides bamboo bier (called chatta in Kannada) to carry dead bodies of COVID-19 victims to crematorium. Ever since the outbreak last year, Guruprasad has been diligently preparing and supplying the much-needed bamboo stretchers. Guruprasad, a resident of Medarakeri near Nanjumalige, has been involved in bamboo-cutting and shaping profession. Hailing from a family that has been selling bamboo products from the last 40 years, Guruprasad has supplied nearly 1,200 bamboo biers since Coronavirus outbreak in March last year. For tying a bier, bamboo sticks are used to make strips.
The bamboo has to be cut into two pieces to approximately seven feet in length and place them horizontally on the ground. Later keeping a space of one-and-a-half-feet between them, the two-and-a-half-feet bamboo strips have to be firmly tied to them leaving equal space so that the dead body stays on the bier firmly. It is ensured that there are no loose ends.
Speaking to Star of Mysore, Guruprasad said, “Unfortunately, once again during this second wave, the demand for biers is increasing day-by-day. I have provided nearly 150 bamboo biers this month alone.”
The last rites of COVID patients are being conducted only at Vijayanagar crematorium, also known as Mukthidhama. Now, on an average ten such cremations are being conducted every day.
After the dead body is placed on bamboo bier, it is brought to crematorium where only a few relatives of the dead wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are allowed to perform rituals. Later, the body is cremated by the crematorium staff as per COVID norms.
“This is not a business for me. I am just helping those who are in need. For the first time in 40 years, I am seeing so much demand for this article, which is used only when someone is dead. I feel very sorry that I am witnessing considerable demand nowadays. Rich or poor, everybody needs to learn a lesson from this pandemic — Wear masks and maintain social distancing without fail,” Guruprasad said.
1,221 cremations in one year at Mukthidhama
Mysuru City Corporation’s Births and Deaths Statistical Officer Anil Christy, who has been working as Nodal Officer for handling COVID-19 cases at Mukthidhama, is all praise for Guruprasad.
“Over the last one year, Guruprasad has been supplying bamboo biers to the MCC. Most importantly, he is ready to provide his services even in the middle of the night. We should be thankful to him,” he said.
At Mukthidhama, there are two electric and one gas crematorium. It would take nearly 45 minutes to burn a body. “Unfortunately, the whole country is witnessing the second wave now and the number of deaths is increasing. Over the last one year, I have cremated nearly 1,221 bodies at Mukthidhama. This is a grim situation but I am thankful to God for providing the opportunity to serve those who are dead in a meaningful manner,” he said.