#RiseFromWithin: A Good Last Goodbye | Tech Mahindra

2020 will be deeply remembered for two things: the war and the warriors. With over 24 million positive cases and more than 822 thousand deaths globally, and the way the pandemic has overturned our daily life in small and big ways, we need no elaboration on the war. That said, it has also brought to the fore, and in many cases, birthed, some great warriors, who started and continue to fight gloriously in the war against Coronavirus. India has reported more than 3.3 million cases and 60 thousand deaths over this entire period, with the southern state of Telangana having some of the highest number of cases in the country. It is from the state's capital, Hyderabad, and one of the biggest TechM locations that we report this heartwarming story of TechMighty Surendra Uplenchiwar, who ventured out to help people in a simple way but instead came face to face with a larger purpose that awaited him.



During the first wave of COVID-19, Surendra and friends set up Feed the Needy, a 10-member voluntary organization through which they distribute rations and food packets to people in need when the country went into lockdown. Their purpose was simple: 'help people while safeguarding their dignity'. The team started to help people in Hyderabad, gathering support from like-minded people and institutions and pooling in their own resources wherever needed. It was a successful, satisfying venture until one of the team members experienced something life-changing: the challenges a family faces when one of them succumbs to Coronavirus in a private hospital, and the remaining are home quarantined.

"A simple thing, like collecting your loved one's dead body, transporting it to a cremation/burial ground, and performing the last rites in a manner that accords dignity to the deceased, becomes the most difficult task. Families can't even grieve peacefully or be together, and they often have no time, resources, or a state of mind to go through it," says Surendra. This adds to woes like lengthy paperwork, high costs of ambulances (₹25,000-45,000 per transfer), access to the site, and unavailability of a family member and support personnel to perform the rites. This was when the team thought about starting a special 'last ride' ambulance to transport bodies from hospitals/homes to cremation/burial sites. With generous help and support from the Cyberabad Commemorate Police Department – led by VC Sajjanar IPS, Commissioner of Police, and Vijay Kumar, DCP Traffic – the team immediately started their journey.

"Disease and death don't discriminate, and neither do we," the team says. "When we went out to feed the needy, there was no caste or religion, just people. Here again, when we deal with something that involves such strong sentiments, we only see a strong purpose – of letting people say one last goodbye in a dignified way". The free service started as a pilot project limited to Cyberabad limits, transporting dead bodies in a safe, timely, and respectful way for 10 hours every day. They now run two ambulances and are working towards securing a fully equipped ambulance (with oxygen cylinders and other support) to help people during the crisis.

A team member recalls, "One day, a woman called to ask if we could transport her husband from the hospital to the crematorium. He'd had multiple organ failure, and she wanted to know if the doctors could remove the ventilator so he could be taken for his last rites. We had no words to console her, only some actions that could help". With monetary help from friends, families, and supportive humanitarians, they have helped over 50 families bid dignified final goodbyes to their loved ones.

"Yes, there's a lot of taboo attached to the pandemic, and when a death happens, the situation only worsens. We have tried to put humanity above everything. We do struggle for funds, time, and support, but that has never stopped us. We are willing to fund the initiative from our pocket if no one helps us – at least for as long as we can". The team's work has won them appreciation internally and beyond Tech Mahindra.

At the same time, Feed the Needy continues to work on the initial idea that people shouldn't go hungry because of the pandemic. In addition, they have also supported people affected by floods in the Mulugu district by giving them clothes and other utilities.

To learn more or to support the initiative, contact Surendra Uplenchiwar.