Families of the deceased are not allowed to give a final farewell to their loved ones since the virus can be contracted even from dead bodies. However, a group of compassionate individuals, Mercy Angels, is ensuring the final-rites of the deceased happen as per their belief.
How would one react to be gripped in quarantine while their loved ones lay abandoned, waiting for their turn to be cremated or buried? Crushed, destroyed, or maybe worse. Such is the aftermath of the 21st-century pandemic Covid-19. In such a moment of tribulation, Mercy Angels from Bangalore have sprung to showcase the best version of humanity.
Mercy Angels (a charitable organization) is a Bangalore based volunteer team, who perform last rites of people who succumb to COVID-19 in the manner of their religious faith. Led by Dr. Taha Mateen, director of HBS hospital, the volunteer consists of people from diverse professions including corporate professionals, lawyers, etc. The team does not charge a single penny from the families of the deceased; they only ask for prayers in return.
The organization has officially tied up with BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), and the team gets several calls from across the city every single day. Once they receive the body of the deceased from the hospital, they take the body to the crematorium or burial ground, as per the respective faith. The deceased is laid to rest as per the wishes of their families. The team has a dedicated ambulance, PPE Kits, and Sanitization Kits. “We have not faced any issue so far. Government authorities have been very supportive. Their support has ensured our utmost protection.”, says Ismail, a volunteer with the team. Volunteers exercise required hygiene measures while dealing with bodies by wearing PPEs and sanitizing their vehicles. “We make it a point to be extremely cautious and not carry any infection back home.”, adds Ismail.
Mercy Angels become the family of the deceased in the moments of the last rites. “We don’t know the person we carry. We don’t even know what they look like. Yet, knowing that we are carrying them on their final journey, emotionally connects us to them. The loss feels personal at some level.”, says Ismail as he recounts volunteers breaking down when they see bodies waiting for their turn to leave without their dear ones standing by, for the last time. Families often have final wishes for farewell which the team tries to fulfill.
“We have carried about 300 bodies till now. The heaviest to carry was that of a 17-day-old wrapped in a bag of the size of polythene. Our throats choked out of cries while chanting Ram Naam Satya Hai. The walk to the crematorium felt like the longest walk of my life.” says Ismail.
Mercy Angels started with six members. It caught noticed in no time. A lot of people reached out with their interest to volunteer. Now the team has expanded to 25 members coming from very diverse backgrounds. All set in gears to be family for a person they never met. And in a manner of faith, they probably have never done before. Especially in times when dividing people based on caste, community or faith is common, the volunteers have shown what makes our country beautiful. This shows the fabric of our constitution stands strong even today.
“This virus sees everyone equally and spares no one then why should we stand divided? If someone is in distress then help them. We can fight COVID together. People can reach out to us if they want to send off their loved ones and are unable to. We do not operate outside Bangalore yet; nevertheless, we will make sure that help is sent.” concludes Ismail.