a quest to uphold the dead's honour

Shalu Saini, 37, was the first body to be cremated during the pandemic . She has helped cremate over 500 bodies since the start of the disease .

MUZAFFARNAGAR, MUZAFFARNAGAR (MUZAFFARNAGAR): Shalu Saini, 37, cant forget the day she saw a body lying unattended in her Muzaffarnagar neighbourhood during the pandemic.He was an old man.His kin had either no resources to cremate him or were too afraid to go out for the last rites with Covid raging all around, she said, recalling the time.The body lay in the open for hours as a blundering health system was unable to do anything.

Saini, a single mother of two, was the first body to be cremated.In the two raging years of the disease, when hundreds of bodies were being abandoned even by family, she would cremate 200 more.According to her, the cost of cremation was always high, rising to around Rs 5,000 for a single funeral in 2020.The families were so discouraged.

People began teasing her about abandoned bodies as the Covids' killing spree ended.Muzaffarnagar's average funeral cost is around Rs 4,000 today.But thats also a lot of money, right?Saini smiled.

She has now become a messiane for the poor and the dying.I get calls from the mortuary, police, NGOs, slums, and crematoriums.What I do... connects me to the almighty, she said.I've been single since 2013 and had a lot going on in life, according to Saini, who runs a small clothing store.

She is seen by her neighbors as a shining star.She not only assists the living when they are unable to find funds to give their loved ones a final goodbye, but she also ensures that the dead receive the reverence and love they deserve, according to Sonu Sharma, one of her neighbors.Muzaffarnagar ADM Narendra Bahadur Singh said that she also supports us in other ways as a token of her services.At times, by spreading awareness on social issues.

When she hears of unclaimed bodies, she is the first one to call her.She organizes all the arrangements and performs the final rites.For people like Nikhil Jangra, she is an angel in human form.Jangras father, a Rohtak resident, was cremated by Saini during the kanwar yatra this time.

His identity was not immediately clear.According to Jangra, Saini performed all the rites.It wasn't exactly a cakewalk, however.It's not so easy for a woman, and especially a single mother, to express herself.

Many women aren't even allowed near cremation grounds.By now, Saini has helped cremate over 500 bodies.And she continues to make it her mission.A man wrestles from cradle to grave, but his remains must be disposed of in a dignified manner after he dies.