Coimbatore: Shantakumar, a flowerseller in Coimbatore, has made it his mission to offer a dignified funeral to those who no one cares for. Like in most cities, in Coimbatore too, the mortuary at the general hospital was becoming a store house for many unclaimed bodies, until one day, Shantakumar landed on their doorstep.
Said Shantakumar, "One day, when we went to the government hospital, we felt a bad smell emanating from the postmortem room. When we enquired, they told us that there are many unclaimed bodies."
The cooperation usually takes these unclaimed bodies and puts them in bullock carts like waste. They carry all the bodies together and dig one single pit and bury them all together in a dumping ground.
The experience shook Shantakumar. The flower contractor, who provided flowers for occasions such as weddings, felt that death too needed to be nothing less than a celebration.
"We might have seen 1 or 2 dead bodies before but when we see the bodies inside the postmortem room with all that awful smell, we realised the worth of a man's life. It was hard at first but we decided to take it up," says Shantakumar.
In 2004, Shantha Kumar along with three more flowersellers, set up the Thozar Trust, 'thozar' meaning friends in Tamil.
In the past 8 years, Shantakumar has carried out over 1500 funerals. And while every funeral costs Rs 750-1000, Shantakumar doesn't complain. The flowersellers collect money from donations amongst themselves and also get help from the local community in the form of subsidised ambulance and low costs for funeral rites.
"For me, it is like doing a service to people. So there is no stress and pain," says the flowerseller. How much ever bodies we get daily, I will continue this work till I have the strength in my own body," he adds with a smile.