Who said Sakhubai was all alone? When the 60-year-old, who lived by herself in Malad East’s Squatters’ Colony, slipped into death’s cold embrace at a hospital on Thursday, she was surrounded by the people who adored her and respected her religious beliefs, regardless of their own. So, yesterday, in a touching display of communal harmony, nearly a dozen of her Muslim neighbours came forward to claim her body and performed her last rituals according to Hindu customs at the Oshiwara cemetery.
Touching display: Sakhu Kiran Singh’s (below) neighbours from Malad East’s Squatters’ Colony take her body for cremation. Pic/Vedant Mane
It wasn’t the first time that the Muslim locals had chipped in to perform such a funeral. The last rites of Sakhu Kiran Singh aka Sakhubai’s husband, Kiran Singh, too, had been conducted by the large-hearted neighbours in 2002, at a time when the city was on the edge following the communal riots in Gujarat.
The Singhs had moved into the largely Muslim locality from Tardeo in 1962 under a slum rehabilitation programme. The couple had no children or extended family.
“Since her husband’s death, she lived alone and worked as a domestic help in several homes,” said Mohammed Yaqoob Sheikh, a neighbour.
Sakhu took ill a few days ago and her neighbours admitted her to Sidhharth Hospital in Goregaon West on Wednesday. Within 24 hours, she died of multiple organ failure, said Sheikh.
Refusing to let her body stay in a mortuary — as is the case with unclaimed bodies — the neighbours approached the police and asked that it be released to them for the last rites.
Javed Shah, a businessman and Sakhu’s neighbour, said no one in the locality even batted an eyelid over making this decision.
Mustafa Khan, another local and business training manager, said the neighbours had set a perfect example of communal harmony.
Yusuf Bandukwala, a local businessman, said a number of Sakhu’s Muslim neighbours had turned up at the cemetery and her last journey to bid her goodbye.