For 2 decades, Ayub has been recovering dead bodies, identifying their next of kin and even performing last rites for those who remain unidentified.

Body Miyan Meet Mysurus Ayub who has laid to rest the unclaimed dead for 19 yearsAyub Ahmed
news Human interest Friday, November 03, 2017 - 12:48

“My parents wished my name would be known for good things,” says Mysuru-based Ayub Ahmed. 

“Sometimes people have to wait until their death for their work to be recognised and to be loved. I am lucky to have people’s love and good wishes in my lifetime,” the 38-year-old adds.

For the last 19 years, Ayub Ahmed has been doing a thankless job – recovering dead bodies, trying to identify the next of kin, and even performing the last rites and burial of those who remain unidentified. This job has earned him the moniker ‘Body Miyan’.

It all began when Ayub was travelling by bus to Gundulpet to pick up his new car. When on the way, he saw people gathering around a certain spot on the road. A closer look revealed that it was the body of a dead man which was capturing everyone’s interest. “My parents told me that if see a dead body, I must look at their face to see if it’s someone I know,” Ayub says, “They told me, I should try to find the dead person’s next of kin if I can.”

Ayub saw the body and left. When he was returning about six hours later in his brand-new car, he saw a bigger crowd gathered at the same spot. “Everyone was disgusted or intrigued, I don’t know. But no one wanted to touch the body. I felt very sad at that point. Who are we as humans if we don’t help each other?” he questions.

This was the first of the many times that Ayub would take a dead person in his arms and then spend days trying to find their loved ones. This time, Ayub kept the body in the mortuary for three days. Unable to find any of his kin, he performed the last rites himself.

Ayub says he has laid to rest or helped lay to rest at least 10,000 persons in the last two decades. His efforts have earned him due recognition in Mysuru and he was awarded at Kalamandir on Wednesday on the occasion of Kannada Rajyotsava.

But acceptance hasn’t always come easy for Ayub.

“I became an outcast initially in Mysuru. Even my parents were worried for me. So, I came to Bengaluru to work for a while,” he recounts.

The only time he thought twice about what he was doing was when he saw a dead body at Lalbagh in Bengaluru. “I didn’t want people to dislike me there as well. But when I ultimately decided to help, I only got good wishes,” he says.

Ayub has never looked back since.

He eventually moved back to Mysuru and left his job as a driver to dedicate all his time to the unclaimed dead. Ayub gets calls from both civilians and the police when they find a dead body. When the call comes from a civilian, Ayub takes his car, transports the dead body to the mortuary and informs the police. He then invests a couple of days trying to find the kin by asking in police stations and posting on his Facebook page.

“I have come across some very heartbreaking cases,” Ayub says softly, “I still get teary eyed thinking about them. Old parents left on the street by children, the mentally ill thrown out of their houses... people who have drowned. I do not want these people to be alone in their deaths as well.”

If he finds any relatives or blood relations willing to perform the last rites of the person, Ayub transports the body to them. Sometimes, they pay him for it, but Ayub often turns them down. “How can I ask for money when they are grieving?” he asks.

However, if he finds poor families who do not have money to perform last rites, he bears the expenses entirely and merely requests the presence of one family member. “In cases where the body remains unclaimed, I perform their last rites as a brother, son or another relative,” he says.

Ayub has six phones which he keeps switched on at all times, save one hour in the day. During that one hour after 11pm, he speaks to no one, including his wife and two daughters, and prays.

Ayub also speaks highly of his wife who supports their family with a tailoring job. “She never stops me. Even if I get a call at 3am, she merely tells me to wear a jacket and go because it is cold outside,” he says.

Educated only till class 2, Ayub’s work survives largely on donations. However, he is content with what he gets and does the best he can with the resources at hand. In a day, he can get up to six calls, and there are days where he gets none. “It is only now that I have appealed to the police department to give me an ambulance, as it would make it easier to transport the bodies,” he says.

Ask him about what ultimately drives him to continue sending off the dead 19 years on the job, Ayub’s answer is simple: “Some people like getting new haircuts or wearing good clothes. For me, my calling is helping the dead go into the night with dignity.”

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