Beg, borrow, cry – my family endured the ‘now normal’ pleas for an oxygen cylinder a whole day for my aunt, who was gasping for breath at a nearby hospital. We made calls to everyone we knew, begged a clinic and cried in grief at the helplessness of the situation. That time, I knew I lost her. The world looked almost minuscule, the air in the room waiting for ‘the bad news’ heavy with despair, as if all the grief on earth was condensed. So, when the silence of the room was filled with shrieks and despair, I knew the time had finally come to say a silent goodbye. She had died of cardiac arrest while her Covid results were still awaited. The Covid results were delayed.
In what has become a ruthless memory now, I stood strong for the family but never imagined the ordeal that would follow later. In Covid times, you don’t grieve, you run pillar to post for a place at the mortuary and then for burial. With hundreds of people dying each day, where do you bury your loved ones if there’s no space left? My aunt died at 4 pm and several hours later, we were still frantically searching for a mortuary to keep her for the night. Since burials happen during the day, the hospital was overbooked, and dead bodies aren’t allowed in the society, imagine the trauma that the deceased’s family has to go through.
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. At 11 pm, ours came from a gurudwara. A family friend put us in touch with them and in a matter of minutes, a mortuary was arranged. The seven-hour ordeal was put to rest in hardly a few minutes. What is segregation of religion during the Covid era? Nothing! During a time when people are charging thousands of rupees for the whole process, they did it for free. All the pains and sorrows and timeless suffering eventually gave way to relief as the selfless Sikhs helped us through the ordeal.
Satbir Singh, from the NGO Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who helped us, said, “We have our mortuary in Trans Yamuna. Jatinder Singh, the founder of the NGO, and S Vikram Singh Rohini, a member from the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Managing Committee, actively handle the cremations of the dead. It is sad to see that their families are unable to attend the last rites. We do it all for free because our religion has taught us to serve others selflessly.”
Satbir adds that they don’t see the religion of the dead before performing their last rites. “It will be wrong to see the religion of the dead while serving them. Be it a Hindu, Muslim or Christian, we try to perform the last rites according to their customs. We even provide PPE kits to their family members who wish to join us. However, if there is no space for burials, we are left with no choice but to cremate them.”
Satbir said that they have helped hundreds of people till now. He said, “Whenever a call comes to us, we leave all our work and go to help the family in need. Be it providing food to Covid-infected patients or filling oxygen cylinders, we are ready to help everyone without expecting anything in return.”
That being said, there will be moments where you will want to shut down the system and get angry, but seeing it upfront, I know the reality. I know how a casualty in life is inevitable. Hundreds of people will die every day, but it is important to keep faith. There is goodness in the world. It is important to believe in them.