Two years ago, while working with a few NGOs in the city, Khaalid Ahamed met an old man who lived on the streets. He didn’t have family and wasn’t willing to move to an old-age home. Unfortunately, the old man breathed his last in front of Khaalid’s eyes after sipping some water. The youngster didn’t know what to do and informed the police immediately. They kept his body in the mortuary hoping that someone would come forward to claim the body. But sadly, no one claimed it and Khaalid and his team cremated the body. This personal experience shook the 24-year-old mechanical engineer. With the support of a few friends, he started Uravugal Trust that performs the last rites for the homeless and unknown dead across Chennai.
“That particular incident created a huge impact on me. While talking to people, the one ‘final wish’ most of them shared with me was a decent burial/cremation. It really doesn’t matter how well or bad a person has lived his/her life, everyone deserves a decent burial — beyond caste, creed and religion. This is the least we could do for others. Imagine us in the same situation with no one to help or care. I shared my thoughts with my friends and they gave me the courage to start something that needs a lot of time and attention,” says Khaalid.
To get a better understanding of burial procedures and other legalities, he got in touch with police officials and hospital staff. “I even met the people, who work at the burial site. When we started off, we didn’t get the kind of attention that we expected. But after getting to know about our selfless work, police and some NGOs started spreading the word. Now, we get more than 20 calls every month from police stations and hospitals,” shared the Good Samaritan.
Uravugal Trust has 350 plus registered volunteers and they have performed the last rites for more than 250 unidentified bodies which include children and destitute.
“Most of the volunteers in the trust are youngsters and they don’t consider it as social work or a service. For them, the whole act is about bringing positive change in society and the way in which we look at other’s lives,” smiles Khaalid.
They also have an ambulance service that mostly helps outstation travellers. The trust also works towards rescuing and rehabilitating aged and homeless people. From October 20, they will be expanding their services to Thanjavur. “Most people who live on the streets die of hunger. To make sure that people living on the streets get one meal a day, we have collaborated with some NGOs. Our aim is to make Chennai hunger-free in the coming years,” he remarks.