“As-salāmu ʿalaykum,” greets 38-year-old Body Miyan, as the interview call starts. It is quite an unusual name for anyone but the man has earned this title for the selfless work he has been doing for the last two decades. Body Miyan does the haunting task of recovering unclaimed dead bodies, shifting them to the mortuary, and even performing their last rites and burial.
This exceptional journey also has an unusual start. One day, Mysuru-resident (Body Miyan) was travelling to Gundlupet, Karnataka in a bus to purchase his new car. On the way, he noticed a huge crowd gathered around a dead body. While returning home after 10 hours, Ayub saw that the body still lay there.
It was then that he carried the body in his arms, put it inside his new car, and shifted it into the mortuary. Ayub did not know the consequences of his act. After coming back home, he had to face everyone’s anger.
“Mujhe marr jaana pasand aane lagaa uss waqt. Aisa kaun sa galat kaam kar diya tha maine?! (I wanted to die at that moment. Did I do anything wrong?!),” he says with palpable anger in his voice.
Soon, Ayub became an outcast in Mysuru. He moved to Bengaluru to work for some time. And it happened again. One day, when Ayub visited Lalbagh in the silicon city, he saw a dead body. He obviously slipped into a state of dilemma.
“I had to leave Mysuru because of that but I decided to help anyway,” he recalls.
After that incident, Ayub knew exactly what he wanted to do. He returned to Mysuru seeking blessings from his parents who simply said, “Do whatever you wish.” Since then, there was no looking back.
Although he was doing a noble job but received only thorns from people as reward. “Log thookte the mujhpe, mere kaam par. Main raat me roya karta tha (People would loathe me for my work. I would spend many nights crying),” he recalls.
People would turn their backs whenever they would see him. But Ayub continued to do his work, even when he did not earn a single penny from it. Educated only till STD 2, Ayub sometimes works as a coolie in the fruit market or drives a taxi. He divided his earning into three equal parts, for his family, for the burial of the dead bodies, and for the people living on the footpath.
Ayub would get food and clothes for the homeless, send orphan children to school, and also get them married. He cannot stop thanking his wife who supports the family with her tailoring job. He recalls the night of his marriage when he had to go to transport a dead body. “I told her that I was going to meet someone who is unwell. Later, she found from someone about my work but did not raise an eyebrow.”
Ayub has six phones that are kept on at all times to help people, except for one hour in the day, when he prays. He has laid to rest at least 10,000 people in the past 19 years with help from the police department.
He chokes in emotion remembering his mother who once told him to win a medal for something, which the world will see and appreciate. “Jab mera waqt aaya toh meri maa nahi hai,” he says emotionally.
Ayub has been also felicitated by the Dubai government for his selfless deed. He says no one should spend money to felicitate him rather they should give food and clothes to the poor. He has been working hard to get an ambulance suitable to transport dead bodies rather than using his old car. He wishes to help the dead rest pin peace and dignity. For him, everyone is equal.
“Aap insaan kaato ya jaanwar, khoon hi niklega (You will only get blood, doesn’t matter if it is a human or an animal),” he says. He just wants to be healthy so that he can continue helping people. “Duaaon me yaad rakhna,” he says as we sign off.