BARIPADA: Lending a shoulder to the dead, standing by the bereaved during the loss of a loved one, help complete funeral rites are values Mayadhara Naik holds high as his life mission. Dedicated to fulfilling this mission, the 56-year-old swings into action as soon as he hears of a death not only in his village but in the panchayat as well. Reaching the bereaved families or individuals, he renders his service and ensures all formalities of funeral or burial are completed with ease.
Hailing from Karkachia village under Udala sub division in the district, Naik, a labourer, has been conducting final rites of people for the past 40 years. “We treat people well when they are alive. But it is equally important to offer dignity in death. This is the reason I am there to help people 24x7,’’ says Naik.
A father to six daughters, Naik feels cremating bodies is not something people often do voluntarily or happily. “But I do for my own satisfaction. I consider it noble and since my family has been a constant support, I have never stopped the work,” says Naik who has been doing the free burial services since the age of 17. So far, he has cremated at least 120 bodies in Udala sub division.
What inspires him to keep going and be unfettered by the stigma attached to the work? The conviction that every person deserves dignity even in death. Being inspired by his uncle Sanatana, Naik says, “He used to offer free burial services and often told me that it is our ‘dharma’ to respect the dead and give them a decent burial. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps as not many people in the village would be willing to do this service.”
In case of unclaimed bodies, Naik feels by doing the last rites, he earns God’s blessings. “Each time I help bury an unclaimed body, I feel it is my duty to complete the rites. So whenever I get to know that someone in the village has died or needs help for funeral works, I leave every work and reach the place to help. I feel content in being part part of the mourning process,” says Naik who feels duty bound in carrying out such activities despite having his daily labour work.
Wife Sarojini Naik has no complaints as well. “Ever since we got married, I have seen my husband leave at odd hours to help conduct funeral rites of the dead. It is almost a god given assignment to respect the dead,” she says. Besides his family, Naik is also respected among his fellowmen across the panchayat for his selfless service since childhood.