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Rashmi Rekha Das

Mahatma Gandhi rightly said: “You must not lose faith in humanity. It is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” 

Today, we often ask ourselves: Does humanity still exist? Every day the news is filled with stories of destruction, murder and rape. It seems as if it is the end of good times. However, we also always harbour a hope that the time always finds a special someone from amongst us who comes forward selflessly to extend a helping hand. 

Meet Gagan Paital, a postman by profession, who has redefined the 'dignity to the dead' belief through his noble gesture all throughout his life. 

Paital who believes in the religion of humanity only claims that he has performed the last rites of more than 1,500 people in the last 35 years. OTV recently caught up with Paital who shared his inspiring journey so far before the camera.

A resident of Jagatsinghpur, Paital performs the last rituals for even a decomposed body, which anyone would hate to do. He makes it a point to cremate bodies lying on footpaths.  “It does not matter to me whether the body belongs to Hindu, Muslim or Christian communities. Because I believe in only one religion and that is humanity," he said.

Gagan

 

We all have a moment in life which forces us to change our perspectives and course of action in life. It was the same with Paital. “While serving the ailing slum dwellers of Patharbandha slum near Vani Vihar, I observed that body of a destitute slum dweller was lying on the road for days without being cremated.  So I volunteered to cremate those bodies. Once I came to know from a newspaper that an unidentified body was lying near Vani Vihar Square. The next day, I found the body lying on the same place and I cremated it. Slowly, I started cremating re and more unclaimed bodies lying on the roads and in hospitals.”

Gagan

 

Paital feels life is a curse for elderly people in the absence of children to look after them. “I found a woman’s body lying at her house near Imfa Park at Sahid Nagar for two days as she had no kids to cremate it. I rushed to the spot after I came to know about it and cremated her according to Hindu rituals. I felt really bad that people did not come forward to cremate the body and left it to rot,” says Gagan.

“It’s not an easy job. The stench of bodies, some having been kept in mortuaries for days and opened up for postmortems, is unbearable.  However, I do not believe in receiving money for the service. It costs up to Rs 3,000 to cremate a body in Swargadwar while it costs Rs 350 to cremate a body through electric chullah. I do not leave the cremation ground until the cremation is complete," claimed the man.

Through his work, Paital also wants to create awareness about organ donation. He says, “We can help the thousands of people waiting for lifesaving and life enhancing transplants. Thus, raising public awareness of organ, eye, and tissue donation and encouraging people to sign up for organ donation is the motto of my life. Whenever I am informed about an unclaimed body, I find out whether his/her organs can be used. Organ donation is still not publicly accepted as much as blood donation is.”

Gagan

 

Asked if he has experienced anything weird during or after cremating the bodies, he laughs and says, “Once, I cremated a priest as he had no one to perform his last rites. That priest appeared in my dream the same night and said, “You gave mukhagni (setting fire into the mouth of a corpse at the time of lighting the funeral pyre) to me. This is not fair. I am a Brahmin and you belong to Khandayat caste. You had no rights to give mukhagni to me.” I felt sick for 15 days after this dream. But I did not retreat from my mission. I will do my bit till my last breath.”

His philanthropic work does not end there. He distributes clothes to needy tribal people after collecting them from well-to-do families and owns a storehouse at his home where he washes and irons cloths before distributing them among the needy. 

Gagan

 

For his generosity, he has been felicitated with top awards like Danabira Harischandra, Debaduta, Change Agent of Odisha and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Noble Award among many.

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