• Trivikrama Mahadeva is worried about the lack of space for unclaimed bodies at the burial grounds.
    Trivikrama Mahadeva is worried about the lack of space for unclaimed bodies at the burial grounds.  YM Reddy/iamin

Trivikrama Mahadeva is an undertaker who has buried more than 8,000 unclaimed bodies since 1971. Most of the time, Mahadeva is seen either visiting the places where cops find unclaimed bodies or making preparations to ferry such bodies to the nearest burial ground. "Even if some bodies are in a bad condition, I treat it with respect and bury them with dignity,'' says Mahadeva.

Mahadeva is worried about the lack of space at burial grounds for unclaimed bodies. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) staff at burial grounds don’t earmark a place for burying such bodies. "The place allocated for burying unclaimed bodies is already full. There are occasions where I have to put two or three unclaimed bodies in one grave,'' he said.

He recalled how he used to struggle to ferry unclaimed bodies from Victoria Hospital mortuary to the burial ground on Mysore Road. "I used to ferry the unclaimed bodies on a push cart. I happened to see Kannada matinee idol Dr Rajkumar's famous film Bangaradha Manushya in 1983. Impressed by one of the scenes, I also bought a horse-cart. Later, the then Mayor of Bangalore helped me buy a three-wheeler to ferry the bodies. Later, some of my well-wishers and philanthropists helped me buy a four-wheeler for the job,'' he says.

Memorable moments
Mahadeva never forgets the cremation of Sivarasan's body in 1991. Sivarasan, one of the accused in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case was shot dead by cops. "Two police jeeps escorted my horse-driven cart while ferrying Sivarasan's body that was cremated at an electric crematorium. The police wanted to cremate Sivarasan's body without making it public,'' he recalls.

He was also felicitated by the then President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in Mumbai. "Now, I stay at a house that I got on a lease with the award money (Rs 2.50 lakh),'' he said. 

Got state award but sold them
The state government had felicitated Mahadeva in recognition of his service to humanity. He was honoured with the Chief Minister’s Gold Medal in 1999. The BBMP also felicitated him with Kempe Gowda Award. “I had to sell both the awards to a pawn broker to raise funds for my children’s education,’’ he says. 

The state government has done nothing to provide a place of stay for Mahadeva. “Being illiterate, I am not aware of social schemes which I can avail for a shelter,’’ he says.