As a child, Sundar was terrified of dead bodies. Years later, the same dead, which used to give him nightmares, would become his source of living. Working at the mortuary of Victoria Hospital, for Sundar, it indeed amazes him, because, unlike others who make a living through the living, he makes it because of the dead. “When I was a child, my mother would warn me of any death, and I would disappear for a while,” says Sundar. He adds that he refused to look at corpses of friends and relatives, even. “I didn’t say goodbye to my close ‘dost’ who drowned in the river at my village Ammavarapalli near Penagonda, Andhra Pradesh. Or even my two uncles. I’m sure their family would have felt bad, but what I felt wasn’t apathy; it was fear,” shares the 32-year-old. However, as he failed his class seven ‘board exams’ and could not afford the exam fee the next year around, he had to give up on his ambition of becoming ‘an officer at a government set-up’. Instead, like many youngsters in his village, he ventured to Bangalore over a decade and a half ago to earn his living. Thus started his stint with the hospital. “At first, I was a cleaner. Then I was also asked to help out with patients with burn injuries - mostly washing and cleaning them,” he recalls. This meant that, from time to time, Sundar would come in contact with bodies, when patients succumbed to injuries. “I would have to come to the mortuary to drop off the bodies. That’s when someone noticed me as ‘a good worker’ and recommended that I be shifted here. I had never imagined that this would happen,” shrugs Sundar, conveying his amazement. The first few days at his new post were enough for him to tell that his fear of bodies hadn’t abated. “But there were others here with me who guided assuming that, as a new hand, I would be a little scared anyway,” shares Sundar. And over the next year, he realised that he had to forget about work the minute he stepped out of the hospital. “Otherwise, you’ll end up a wreck,” he says. “That’s why no one wants to work here. Not so long ago, we were 20 of us here; now we’re only six. But I’m happy here,” he says. Though blind in his right eye from an injury that was caused in childhood as he played, he picked up his duties soon enough. “Even now, the doctors give us clear instructions. They ensure that we get the right kind of protection - gloves, masks, aprons, shoes - so there’s never any fear,” he says. “And my colleagues are great friends, so even when we’re working the night shift, 36 hours at a go, it’s never dreary.” This isn’t merely the place where Sundar won his fears over. The hospital is where he first met his wife Rathna, who was then a cleaner at the Emergency ward. “She’s passed SSLC,” he says with a hint of pride. His only grievance is that he hasn’t got the status of a permanent employee yet. “It’s been 15 years since I started serving in this hospital,” he says, “I dream for my children - that my daughter should become an engineer and that my son should enter the police force. If only I can educate them.” All the same, he adds that while providing for their education is something that he must do, his school-going children, Vighnesh and Netravati, are free to choose their own career paths.
As the year 2013 is all set to end, City Express is moving away from the normal year-ender stories. Instead we present some unseen faces, who have been excelling in their respective fi elds or living life that not many would imagine. In the next one month, we will bring stories of lesserknown people through our series 'Unseen Faces - 2013'.