Dying with dignityhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/dying-with-dignity/

Dying with dignity

Dr Ramnik Parekh runs Antim Sanskar Seva that provides service right from the hospital to home and finally to the crematorium.

Dr Ramnik Parekh runs Antim Sanskar Seva that provides service right from the hospital to home and finally to the crematorium

In a space parched,overcrowded,bustling city like Mumbai,where basic amenities are sparsely and ineptly available,arrangements to conduct a dignified final rite could seem like a task. Extending the constitutional right to dignified life a little further,75 -year-old Dr Ramnik Parekh has taken up the job to promote the concept of dignified final rites,too. Parekh,who owns a Medicare company,along with his wife Dr Jyoti Parekh has been running a cremation service under the banner Antim Sanskar Seva since 2008.

An ambulance service,which promises to provide service right from the hospital to home and then finally to the crematorium,was envisaged as early as in 1982,but became operational only in September 2008.

“It was in 1982,when my father passed away and his body had to be transported in a rickety ambulance. I wondered why a man,who lived a simple yet dignified life,had to be carried in such a hapless fashion when he died. It hit me deeply. But as I had work commitments and could not dedicate myself to start an initiative,this had to wait,” says Parekh,who on his retirement in 2002,began approaching people and convincing them on the need to have such a service started.

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Unlike in other religions,Hindu culture,Parekh claims,does not look at the intricacies of the final rites that ensure the corpse is not disrespected. “In Islam,while the body is respected and carried out in a certain fashion,this is missing in the way final rites are carried out amongst Hindus,” Parekh claims.

Although the service is not dedicated just for one religion,Parekh says so far they have only been able to carry out the service for Hindus and Jains,citing lack of expertise to venture into other religious beliefs. “We provide ambulances but we do not really have an understanding of how burial happens as per Islam or any other religion besides the Hindu culture. We have stuck only to the areas we are well-versed with,so far,” Parekh adds.

The service,which costs Rs 3,500,is available from Colaba to extreme end of the western and central suburbs. “Prices are quoted as per the distance. If it is towards Borivili or Thane district,additional fuel charge is also applied,” said Tukaram Kolekar,who has been managing Antim Sanskar Seva since its inception.

With as many as eight staffers — one social worker,two drivers and other helpers — the Seva on an average is attending to two to three families. “We have 24 different kits. Every community has its unique way. We try and cater to most of them,” Parekh adds,claiming that free services are made available for families that cannot afford them. In 2008,while the services were availed by just 60-70 families,today Kolekar claims at least an average of 700 families benefit from the service every year.