Applause and acknowledgement matters, but not when one is on death bed, in debt and in urgent need of medical and financial assistance. Sharif Chacha of Ayodhya needs no introduction.
Not just to those who live near his tin-shade dilapidated house located in the Mohalla Khirki Ali Beg, but even to those who have come across the incredible story of his selfless service on social media platforms. The old man also featured in the TV show Satyamev Jayate hosted by actor Aamir Khan.
For the last 27 years, he has been cremating unclaimed bodies and performing their last rites, out of his own pocket. A service he has rendered to society sans any expectations, without any government support. A cause he has taken up without any communal corruption. 'Kya Hindu-Kya Musalman' would be his usual reply to people of his area.
A story needs to be told enough
The 83-year-old man, unfortunately, is now on death-bed and his family members do not want him to die before seeing the Padma Shri award bestowed on him. It has been over a year since he received the letter from the Government of India telling him that he will be honoured with the Padma Shri, but he is yet to receive the award.
His name was listed in the Padma Shri awards list of 2020 at serial number 123 in Uttar Pradesh quota. It's not just the award but Sevi Mohammed Sharif is also in need of urgent financial assistance and immediate medical intervention.
Time to give back
The social worker is suffering from several health-related ailments and is unable to afford proper treatment due to poverty. A bicycle mechanic, his journey started when he found the body of his son near a railway track, lying half eaten by animals. That's when he vowed to perform the last rites of unclaimed bodies as per their respective religious ceremonies.
Since then he has ferried unclaimed bodies on his bicycle, before performing their last rites. Sometimes it would take covering miles to retrieve unclaimed bodies. He has cremated more than 25,000 bodies in the past 27 years.
Family in debt
It's been six months since Sharif Chacha has been ill, and his small bicycle repair shop is long shut. Two of his sons are no more while one is retired. Mohammed Sharif's son Shageer works as a private driver and earns barely enough to feed the family, let alone afford medical expenses.
"We have taken huge loans and owe a lot of money to doctors and chemists. My concern is how do we carry on with his medical bills?" His family members now worry if he'll ever live to receive the honour in his lifetime.