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Four Women in Bhubaneswar lead the way in Cremating Unclaimed Bodies

Bhubaneswar: In a society where the final rites of the departed are sometimes neglected, a group of extraordinary women has emerged, determined to provide solace and dignity to the unclaimed bodies.

Led by Madhusmita, these courageous individuals have embarked on a mission to cremate the forgotten dead with utmost respect and compassion. Inspired by her work, Snehanjali Sethi, Smita Mohanty, and Swagatika Rao have joined Madhusmita, forming an unbreakable sisterhood that seeks to uplift the departed souls left behind in the city.

In past five years Madhusmita, with her unwavering dedication, has already cremated over 1,500 unclaimed bodies, most of which belonged to accident victims and individuals who tragically took their own lives. Her path was further illuminated during the COVID-19 pandemic, where she and her husband, Pradeep Prusty, conducted the last rites for deceased COVID patients.

Reflecting on her experiences, she shares, “When I first encountered a lifeless body, I felt a momentary fear, but now I have grown accustomed to it. This work has become my calling.”

Madhusmita, who had worked as a nurse in the pediatric department of a hospital in Kolkata, shared her perspective on the stark contrast between her previous profession and her current mission. She explained, “Being a nurse was a fulfilling job. However, transitioning from a well-paid position to the profound social work of guiding the departed on their final journey has been an entirely different experience altogether.”

However, Madhusmita’s decision to embark on this noble path was not without its challenges. While her family members provided unwavering support, their neighbours held reservations and distanced themselves from them. The weight of societal judgment failed to deter Madhusmita, as her determination to fulfill her calling outweighed the opinions of those around her.

Madhusmita’s extraordinary work inspired others to join her cause. Snehanjali Sethi, a journalist, Smita Mohanty, a shop owner, and Swagatika Rao, who works in a bank, were profoundly moved by Madhusmita’s selflessness. Together, these four remarkable women formed a sisterhood dedicated to cremating unidentified and unclaimed bodies found throughout the city, including those discovered on railway tracks.

Their selfless acts of lifting the forsaken bodies and guiding them through their final rites exemplify the true essence of empathy and compassion. Their collective efforts not only bring solace to grieving families but also shed light on the significance of embracing our shared humanity and extending kindness and support to those who have been forgotten.

For Smita Mohanty, the motivation to join this initiative stemmed from personal tragedy. She lost her brother in a train accident in Bengaluru, and the family was unable to bring back his body for the last rites. This heartbreaking experience inspired Smita to join Madhusmita in ensuring that the departed received the dignified farewell they deserved. “When I decided to join this initiative, many criticized me. But I was adamant to do this, and my family supported my decision,” Smita shared.

As of now, Smita has already cremated over 24 bodies, making a significant impact in her own right. Her personal connection to the cause has fueled her determination to make a difference and provide solace to others who have faced similar circumstances.

As Madhusmita and her dedicated team continue their noble work, their collective efforts remind us of the profound impact one person, or in this case, a group of determined individuals, can have on society. The unwavering sisterhood formed by Madhusmita, Snehanjali, Smita, and Swagatika shines as an example of compassion, breaking the barriers of fear and societal expectations to ensure that every soul is granted the farewell they deserve. Through their selfless acts, these extraordinary women illuminate the path towards a more compassionate and inclusive society.

The four ladies not only dedicate their time and efforts to carry out the cremations but also bear the expenses associated with this noble undertaking. To support their mission, they also rely on donations from kind-hearted individuals who recognize the significance of their work. These generous contributions enable them to continue their compassionate endeavors and ensure that no soul is left uncared for in their final journey.

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