This Coimbatore family runs a free funeral service for those in need

This Coimbatore family runs a free funeral service for those in need
“The satisfaction that we see in the eyes of a fellow human being after they are relieved from a huge distress is what drives us towards doing more to the society,” says 43-year-old Satheesh who runs ‘Thaimai Arakkattalai’ in Coimbatore. The trust runs a service called ‘Ilavasa Neethaar Sevai’, which translates to ‘free service for the deceased’. Satheesh and his family run the service which provides logistical aid for families who have lost a loved one. They have been working for the cause since 2016. The service provides a freezer box to transport the body, shamiana, tables, chairs and tea flasks. The transportation as well as the setting up of the shamiana and other arrangements are done free of cost. Satheesh and his family also offer a prayer for the deceased, and in some cases, help with cremation arrangements as well. Satheesh’s whole family participates in the running of Ilavasa Neethar Sevai — his wife Saradha is the Managing Trustee, and their children, relatives and even friends actively participate too. Satheesh says, “When a person dies, the whole family gets stranded. If they are already facing poverty, the situation is even worse. We wanted to get help them during such a difficult time. We try our maximum to reduce their burden by providing all the necessary materialistic and moral support required to perform the last rites.” Apart from helping with funeral arrangements, the Thaimai Trust’s services extend to helping grieving families with their household chores. “Apart from our family members, we have other volunteers who come forward to work with us. Since women from our family actively participate, we have other women also who come forward and work with us. If we come to know that there is nobody in a family to take over the charge of conducting the funeral, we do it ourselves,” Satheesh shares. He adds, “This is a 24-hour service. I don’t think any other social service organisation works round the clock. Death can happen anytime and we are on call irrespective of the time on all days. Sometimes we get calls at midnight and we try our maximum to reach the spot with an hour. Irrespective of caste, creed and religion, we help everyone.” Due to personal and financial constraints, however, they have limited this service to within a 12-km radius in Coimbatore city. The trust does not have any paid staff or an office, and accept any help that the community offers. John, Satheesh’s friend, provides a place to store all the required materials for free. “On hearing about our services, some organisations and individuals come forward to help us. In that case, we ask them to provide us with materials that we need instead of monetary help. So now we have eight sets of such materials that we can offer.” While talking about the financial constraints of running the trust, Satheesh explains that the transportation charges are the most difficult to meet, which add up to around Rs 20,000 per month. In order to earn some income, they also rent out their materials. “Sometimes people ask for these materials for conducting the tenth or sixteenth-day ceremonies and we charge them for it, provided they can afford it. We charge just 50% of what others charge outside.” Apart from helping with funeral services, the trust also provides help for those who cannot afford medical or educational facilities. During the dengue outbreak in the region, they set up around 100 camps in and around Coimbatore to distribute ‘nilavembu kashayam’, a medicinal herbal drink. They also provided support in relief camps when natural disasters such as cyclones Gaja and Ockhi hit. While talking about their functioning during the pandemic-induced lockdown, Satheesh says with a heavy heart that they were unable to carry out the Neethaar Sevai due to COVID-19 protocols. “We did get a number of calls during the pandemic from those in need. But we were helpless as the city corporation had instructed us not to go out. But later we joined hands with Radio City FM and provided groceries and medicines for a hundred families. We also held camps and provided homoeopathic medicines to people during the pandemic.” Thaimai Trust has won nine awards, including the ‘Coimbatore Citizen Award’. With the sole aim of rendering support to those who require it, Satheesh constantly motivates his fellow trustees and volunteers. “There are many people who long for moral support, which we as human beings ought to provide each other,” he says, while sharing an incident that moved him. “We render this service to families in which a death has occurred. But I once got a call from an old person who was abandoned by their family, asking me to take over their last rites after their death. I was speechless when I heard that. I took my family to their place and we treat them like our family member till today.” Opposing the conventional beliefs of some of their relatives, Satheesh and his family work untiringly to support those in need.

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