PACHU MENON, MARGAO
At a time when those at the forefront of the COVID combat in the state continue to stand against the might of the potent virus and are doing their efficient best to save lives, there also exist individuals, who have braved the viral menace in their own way to give a dignified farewell to those succumbing to the disease. News reports about the attendant-cum-caretaker at the Hindu crematorium at Khariwada in Vasco, who has to date attended to the cremation of seven COVID-infected dead bodies should inspire people into believing that not only in life, the compassion of certain people for those falling prey to the disease extends even in death. Notwithstanding the standard operating procedures for handling and disposing of dead bodies of COVID-19 patients which specify that they would be handled by trained health professionals wearing full personal protective equipment, the necessity for Ramu Shelam to be in close proximity of the dead body while the final rites are in progress cannot be overlooked. This makes him equally vulnerable to the dreaded infection. The last person to stand at the crematorium till the body turns into ashes and immediately thereafter making space available for other bodies at the pier; it is indeed trying times for him! Yet Ramu is totally unfazed and not overawed by the situation. The meagre salary he is paid for his services has not deterred him from carrying out his duties diligently. Nor has Ramu shirked his new responsibilities! A true COVID warrior in all senses, Ramu Shelam has, however, been an untold and unheard story. While their conscientiousness and unflinching attitude to the job at hand has earned the healthcare workers, police personnel, municipal workers and many more the appreciation of the general public, it appears that people like Ramu Shelam are destined to continue with their obscure existence. The society cannot be blind to the selfless services of such individuals who deem it necessary and befitting to give a sense of dignity to even those who have passed away from this mortal world. Besides those in the limelight, this pandemic will continue to have its share of unsung heroes as well! It is for the grateful society to honour each of them without any bias whatsoever.