Duo set aside religion to bury their friend

At a loss for whom to ask for help, wife of deceased calls up his age-old buddies

Ravindra Pramanik and Sajid Khan ran around for hours to ensure their friend Nasir Khan, a suspected COVID-19 patient, was laid to rest in peace at the cemetery on Bahadurshah Zafar Marg.

The two men said they did not spare a thought to their different religions as they rallied to help Nasir’s family.

Nasir, who was from West Bengal but stayed at Ghantaghar near Tis Hazari, observed Roza on Monday but complained of uneasiness late in the night. His wife took him to a nearby hospital from where he was shifted to Lok Nayak Hospital. Around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, she was informed that Nasir had passed away.

With no relatives in town to help her and clueless about what to do, she remembered Nasir’s old friends from years ago — Sajid and Ravindra — and contacted one of them using her husband’s phone.

“She called Sajid and he immediately called me. We live on the same street and rushed to the hospital,” said Ravindra, standing next to Sajid at Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam.

The friends said Nasir’s wife had come to Delhi from Kolkata just a few days before the first lockdown was announced. “She stays in Kolkata with her three children. She had no idea about how things are done here,” said Sajid.

The duo went to the police post to file papers and completed proceedings at the hospital as well. “We asked the hospital staff if he was COVID-19 positive or negative. They just wrote he was a COVID-19 suspect and then shifted him to the mortuary,” said Ravindra.

The biggest task on Wednesday was the burial. They sought permission from the cemetery around 1 p.m. and were informed that they can come around 4 p.m. for the burial.

“The JCB machine that digs the grave for infected bodies is arranged by the graveyard and sometimes, the person comes according to availability,” said grave digger Mohammed Shamim, citing the reason for the delay in burial.

He also told the friends that sometimes the Health Department officials, who bring the body from the hospital, do not place it inside the grave so, “you may have to lend a hand... of course, you will be given PPE kits”.

As the duo agreed, a question popped into Ravindra’s head: “I am a Hindu, am I allowed inside?”

“If you are willing to do it then no one can stop you!” said Mr. Shamim.

“Then I will. There is no one to help other than us and if we won’t do it, then who will?” said Ravindra, looking at Sajid.

Late in the evening, Ravindra helped Shamim and two others bury Nasir. Sajid was unable to make it as he had to observe Roza and could not bear to wear the PPE kit.

The duo said they and Nasir had become friends at work and bonded as the were all Bengalis. “Over 10 years ago, we all used to work near Azadpur Sabzi Mandi and sewed designs. We lived in the same room, cooked food together. Over the years, we drifted apart due to work or marriage... but we always kept in touch over the phone,” Ravindra recalled.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:31:30 AM |

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