India: Bengaluru-based Mohammed Ismail ensures dignified farewell to over 1,500 Covid victims
Mohammed Ismail of Mercy Mission has emerged as the messiah for the departed souls, who have fallen prey to the raging contagion
Mohammed Ismail, a software engineer, has risen up to the indomitable Covid-19 challenge that has been overwhelming India in the second and deadlier wave of the contagion.
Ismail has emerged as a Covid-19 warrior, as he leads from the front to save precious lives and gives a warm send-off to departed souls.
The information technology (IT) professional has been lending a helping hand whether it is boarding an ambulance, visiting hospitals, or taking care of bodies to give a dignified farewell to Covid-19 victims.
His dedication stems from his innate belief that the dead must not be abandoned amid the unfolding tragedy that has overwhelmed India’s hospitals, mortuaries, crematoria, burial grounds, and cemeteries.
He has been instrumental in ensuring a dignified farewell to 1,500 Covid-19 victims since the onset of the contagion last year.
His days have got longer, as Bengaluru reels under the fresh viral outbreak surge while keeping pace with his work front.
He has been part of the growing brigade of work-from-home (WFH) IT professionals amid the Covid-19-induced new normal.
April and May were the most challenging months for him. “In the past few weeks when deaths have surged, our entire day was to start visiting hospitals in the morning, pick up bodies and then cremate them. There have been days when I waited at the crematorium from 7 am onwards and returned home at 10 pm,” he said.
Ismail is an integral part of Mercy Mission established by Dr. Tahamateen and Mehdi Kalim, who was inspired to start this initiative after they saw mass burials in Italy during the first Covid-19 wave in March 2020.
“It was shocking to see mass funeral pyres. It was so disturbing," said Ismail.
Initially, he started with six volunteers and an ambulance to ferry the bodies, and later it has evolved into a 40-member team and a fleet of seven ambulances.
Ismail is also collaborating with like-minded individuals and organisations and has grown into a network of over 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) comprising
volunteers from various walks of life.
They have set up the covidhelplinebengaluru.com with a 24x7 helpline to ensure the public does not struggle to find beds, oxygen, medicines, and ambulance services.
Ismail puts a premium on the last journey of an individual.
For instance, in April, a family lost two brothers, who died in separate hospitals within a day’s gap.
“We ensured that they were buried next to each other. It wasn’t easy transporting bodies from different hospitals during lockdown restrictions. But the satisfaction of helping in the last journey is an indescribable feeling,'” he said.
Similarly, when a Covid-19 patient from West Bengal passed away in Bengaluru and his entire family was stuck in Kolkata, Ismail and his band of volunteers ensured the last rites were performed and even his ashes were immersed in compliance with all Hindu rituals.
Ismail still cannot get over this tragic tale.
A father-daughter duo tested Covid-19 positive. The father was admitted to a private hospital in Bengaluru, where he passed away after a few days, while the daughter was quarantined at home.
“It was around 9 pm when the daughter called me and wept disconsolately. She narrated that her father's body was lying in the hospital mortuary for two days, as no one was available to perform his last rites and she requested me to do the honours. Her wailings still echo in my ears. She was helpless, as she could not step out of her home. I did the last rites for her father,” he added.
Covid-19 was Ismail’s first tryst with social work. He plans to take leave from work to be a pillar of strength for grief-stricken families when death strikes their loved ones amid these extraordinary viral times.
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