It’s been nearly 28 years, but Dr Ramnik Parekh, 74, is unable to forget the harrowing experience of taking his father’s body to perform the last rites.
“The hearse that carried him was filthy,” said Parekh, a resident of Lower Parel. “The van stopped running and I had to get another one for carrying his body home and then to the crematorium. I felt that I couldn't give my father the respect and dignity that he deserved in his death.”
The thought that everyone deserved a decent burial or cremation stuck with Parekh. Two years ago, Parekh’s trust, Hiralal Parekh Parivar Trust, a social initiative to help people perform last rites of their loved ones. Called the Antim Samskar Seva, the service is provided at no-profit basis.
A former chief medical advisor at Hindustan Lever, Parekh runs the service from his home in Phoenix Towers. “Out team of four helpers is just a call away,” he said. The team reaches the hospital or home in an air-conditioned hearse and then helps the family in arranging everything.
“Religion is no bar for us. We have priests who offer religious services,” said Parekh, adding that currently they have one hearse and planned to add another vehicle soon.
The helpers assist the family in building a bier (bamboo stretcher to carry the body), arranging flowers, and collecting ashes. They also get the death certificate from the civic authority.
“Generally, the deceased’s family is in shock. Our service eases the pressure on them,” said Parekh, adding that he spent six months studying different rituals. “We keep 24 kits that caters to different religions ready with our uniformed team of helpers.”
The trust offers it services to residents from Churchgate to Borivli, and also in Navi Mumbai. The family is charged only Rs 3,000 as input cost for the services rendered. So far, 350 families have availed the service since 2008.
Peddar Road resident Bhushan Doshi, who lost his 57-year-old sister due to cancer in January this year, said: “When someone you love passes away, you want their bodies to handled very carefully. Members of Antim Samskar Seva were very careful in bringing the body down the stairs from our house on the ninth floor.”