Prayers and Heartache
Shamim gets a call an hour before the hearse arrives. That is when he becomes nervous.
He prepares the relatives, asking them to put on protective suits, gloves and masks for the burial ceremony, before the family says a prayer and lowers the corpse — usually wrapped in cloth or plastic sheeting — into the grave.
The mourners then throw their protective gear into the hole before a mechanical earth-mover fills it in.
Some of the bodies of coronavirus victims arrive without relatives to help with the burial, so Shamim said he has often defied orders to stay away.
“People just refuse to come help with the burial. What can you do? I have to step in,” he said, describing “heartbreaking” scenes, like when only a wife and a small child came to the funeral of one man.
At a recent burial, Shamim had to find gloves for a small group who had turned up just with plastic bags for protection. He finally found two pairs and gave one glove each to the four people who were lowering the body.
“I understand it’s never easy to bury the dead, but some families don’t follow the rules at all. So many times I have had to beg the hospital workers who accompany the body for gloves,” Shamim said.