Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-05-14 14:31 Bengaluru: He is all of 26-year-old and is the go-to guy for police whenever they have to clear unclaimed bodies of the dead. Praveen is just a phone call away. He takes those abandoned bodies, washes them, wraps them with white shroud and gives them a dignified burial. He does not do it to get some worthless award. Nor does he do it because he has nothing else to do. He is a holder of a Master of Social Work degree. But then, he is the son of a man, a living legend who saw to it that thousands of unknown, unsung dead were treated with dignity on their journey into the unknown. Son of Trivikrama Mahadeva, Kumar grew up watching his father doing this yeoman service. Since 1971, Mahadeva has buried 88,880 abandoned bodies in Bengaluru. Recognising Mahadeva’s dedication, former president late APJ Kalam had presented with Rs 2.5 lakh cheque and former AP chief minister late Rajashekhara Reddy had awarded him with Rs one lakh. But Mahadeva is oblivious of the donors. “He didn’t know who Kalam was,” gushes Kumar. Absolutely unassuming, Mahadeva goes on with his chore. The way Mahadeva treated the bodies and helps them attain their last journey in a decent way is a legend in itself. And there are those numbers which speak for themselves. Unlike his father, Kumar had an opportunity to study. After completing his BA in Political Science from Government College at Vijayanagar in the city, he did his Masters in Social Work from Bangalore University. Had he chosen, he would have got a job in a good NGO with a nice pay cheque, but Praveen decided to follow his father. “My father is my hero and am proud to follow in his footsteps,” says Kumar. To bury each dead body, the City Corporation gives him Rs 250 and so far, Kumar has buried more than 15,000 bodies. “I earn my bread and butter for my family from these unclaimed bodies,” he says. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy for Kumar. His training included handling decomposed bodies and learning to bear the stench. Recalling an incident at Vrishabhavathi valley, Mahadeva, his father, says, “We were called to retrieve a decomposed body and young Kumar was hesitant to touch. However, bearing the foul smell, he brought the body to the shore and later buried it. I was at peace. Today, he takes care of everything, while I rest.” Today, Mahadeva’s younger son Kiran assists his brother. “And he is not scared at all,” beams his proud father. But Mahadeva and his wife are worried that it may be tough for Kumar to find a partner. “Who wants to give their daughter to an undertaker? We have been asking him to look for some other job,” say his parents. But Kumar is not keen to look elsewhere. “I find peace in giving decent burial to those abandoned bodies. Why should I do something different?” asks Kumar. From his earnings, Kumar hopes to give a better education to his two sisters – Sonia and Arpita. Sonia is studying in II PU while Arpita is in I PU. “I want to save money so that they are married into well-to-do families.” Although Mahadeva has never been to school, his children have high regards for the values, he has inculcated in them. “Hena anna kodtu, jana hana kotru – corpses gave us our two meals and people gave us money. Respect both,” says Kumar. Prod Kumar on how he looks at death. Pat comes reply. “There have been instances where relatives and close friends disowned the body in burn or suicide cases. For, most of the times, it would be in a decomposed state. It pains me to see how matrix of relations change when you are dead. But we are all humans and we all end up one day like this or other way,” says Kumar rather matter-of-factly.