J for Jobs

Mahadeva being felicitated by Karnataka Chief Minister. Image courtesy: bangaloremirror.com

No I am not talking about Steve Jobs but about the jobs most of us do for a living. Those more often than not 9-5 jobs that most of us crib about. You may be a doctor, lawyer, engineer ,teacher, cop or a business man and expect to meet more people with such jobs. Today, I am writing about a man named Mahadeva with an unusual job. His job is to bury the unclaimed corpses from city hospitals.

The reel-like real story of this man starts when he is barely three or four and his mother leaves their family and village and vows never to come back. She tried to make a living for herself in the new place but fate willed otherwise and she fell ill within three years. The doctors advised her to be taken to a better hospital and that led them to the Victoria Hospital in Bangalore. His mother gave the last pieces of jewelery she had and pleaded to be taken into the hospital. Mahadeva in the meanwhile slept in the hospital verandah, played along with the street children, begged for food from the street side vendors and led a “happy” life . About two weeks after that when he went back to the hospital, the orderly, Krishnappa, who had taken his mother in stopped him and asked “Don’t you know your mother is
dead?”. Krishnappa had buried her after the hospital had waited the statutory 3 days for someone to
claim her body.


Praveen, Mahadeva's son. Image: beyondfocus.in

A few in the hospital raised money to send him back to his village but Mahadeva didn’t want. He had nowhere to go when Krishnappa, the 80-year-old orderly, took him to stay with him. Krishnappa had no one either. Mahadeva grew up with Krishnappa( he called him tatha, meaning grandpa) running errands in the hospital.  And then, one day, the cops asked him to bury an unclaimed dead body and paid him Rs 200 for the job. This was when Mahadeva entered his profession and eventually became the go-to guy for burying the city’s unclaimed corpses. He had to do everything from pull the stiff body from the morgue to dig a hole and bury the body. When his tatha, his loved one, died in 1971 he realised what death of an intimate one can be and garlanded the body before burying him. From then on he made it a practice to garland every body he buried. He believes everyone deserves respect and
no one should feel ‘unwanted’ in death, even if life had treated them that way.

He later bought a horse(Ammu) to carry the dead who died after carrying about 25000 corpses. He till date mourns that he was not allowed to bury Ammu. But Ammu is now his business logo and part of his business card and also part of the pictures on his autos that he bought later to carry the dead. This life does not come without a cost though. When he wanted to get married, nobody wanted to give their daughter’s hand in marriage to him. He had to pay Rs. 2000 as the bride money to marry the girl. Now he has four children and lives with them in a rented place in Bangalore.

Mahadeva has buried more than 77, 882 corpses in his lifetime and his dedicated service had earned him Phenomenal public recognition. He has also become an HR case study after Subroto Bagchi, from MindTree, mentioned him in his book “The Professional”. Local petrol pumps do not charge him when his hearse is topped up and the Chief Minister of Karnataka felicitated him for his selfless service to the abandoned citizens of Bangalore. Mahadeva is proud of his work and business, and today his eldest son, Praveen, doing graduation, has also joined him and proudly continuing the tradition.

Hats off to his service!!!

Link for ABC Wednesday

19 thoughts on “J for Jobs

  1. always wonder how many people get buried and their families never know what happened to them? I think of the time after the Haitian disaster.

    tough job.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  2. The unsung heroes…..

    There was a Tamil movie a while ago featuring Vikram in that role of a person like this. Maybe, he was the inspiration behind the movie. It was a very dark movie – but death is a dark subject by itself.

    A very depressing job to have for sure.

  3. Hats off to Him…..
    A touchy post by you….

    i have seen ppl doing this in our community grave yard….. they are doing it since decades and generation after generation engaged in the same profession…. i don’t know how they continue…may be its just a job for them.

    Best wishes,

  4. Once in a while we all need to read or listen to stories like this to put a perspective on our own lives.

    Also, this was a nice series. A to J. It would have been lovely if you’d gone upto Z 🙂

    • Yeah . He made the most of his life circumstances and his service is commendable.
      would have been nice if I could continue till Z. but me lost focus quite soon

  5. Dear sapna,
    my name is anjana frm kerala. i am searching for the details of mahadeva from the past one year..
    please help me and kindly give me his address if possible..

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