The Rite Path

When Rafique Abdul Rehman Mulla bought his first ambulance about 35 years ago, his motive was just to earn a living and support his family. The ambulance, usually parked near the Sassoon Hospital Dead House, earned Mulla his bread and butter for years as he ferried injured people or dead bodies to and from various parts of the city. However, around two decades ago something changed his perspective to money, life and death. "I was standing with three of my friends and we saw an eight-year-old boy get hit by a two-wheeler. The accident was so grave that the boy lost his life on the spot. Since he was the son of a beggar, the father couldn't afford to perform the last rites. My friends and I offered to do it for him and collectively contributed for the cause," recalls 62-year-old Mulla.

Since that date, whenever Mulla comes across a bereaved family that cannot afford the expenses of performing the last rites or cremation of the deceased person, Mulla not only pitches from his pocket but also makes sure the rites are performed as per the person's religious traditions. Till date, over 100 families have benefited from Mulla's generous gesture.

But the man himself doesn't regard his act as anything extraordinary and gives a modest explanation, "I feel fortunate that God has chosen me to do this. Whenever there is a death in any family rich or poor the members are engulfed in sorrow. But in the case of poor families, they don't even get time to mourn as they helplessly wonder about how to go about things due to their financial situation. I am just a medium to helping them find a solution," he says.

Mulla mentions that in the past two decades, he has been joined by his friends too. And now the friends Ganesh Arne, Balasaheb Hingne, Abbas Inamdar and Jayaram Shelke share whatever the expenses are. While the deceased children are cremated at Kailash Crematorium, the adults are cremated at other city crematoriums like Vaikunth Smashanbhoomi. "Most of the families do not insist on traditional firewood pyres, unless they are bound by some religious custom. But if a family does insist on such a pyre, we arrange for it even though it is more expensive as compared to the electric or diesel cremation," he explains.

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