Guru works a graveyard shift very different from what the white-collared world relate to.
The 49-year-old man in Vambakeerapalayam ekes out a living from dealing with the dead _ arranging the funeral of unclaimed bodies that pile up at the Government General Hospital mortuary.
“I have been doing this job for over 20 years. At times, the bodies I cremate are in a highly decomposed condition. ,” the undertaker says.
For the police at Odayanchal station, Guru is their Man Friday; their go-to man who can be relied on to help arrange a final farewell to unknown bodies that cannot be preserved any longer at the mortuary.
“Most of the unclaimed bodies are of those who come to the city from far off places,” says Zakir Hussain, Sub-Inspector (II) of Odayanchal station.
On Saturday, Mr. Hussain and his colleague Sub Inspector (1) Keerthi at Odayanchal station decided to organise a felicitation for Guru along with a group of youth in the locality who have been rendering yeomen service in helping to arrange a funeral for unclaimed bodies.
Guru is a listed staff of the Puducherry Municipality with a proper identity card; but his wages hardly suffice to manage his family of four.
The paltry sum of Rs. 100, that the Muncipality pays for each body he cremates, has not been revised in years. He is yet to be paid arrears to the tune of about Rs. 55,000 he claims.
“Some months, I get five to ten bodies to cremate, but then there are periods where I get none,” says Guru, whose job bonds him in the most strange way to complete strangers for whom he performs the last rites as he briefly steps into the role of their next of kin.