These humans of Mumbai graveyard shift fight thieves, laugh off horror stories

Aug 04, 2017, 21:30 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty and Sameer Abedi

They fight thieves, laugh off horror stories, share tales of 'jinns', philosophise that every person will eventually end up here. mid-day introduces you to the humans of the graveyard shift

Representational Pic
Representational Pic

Aerican author, HP Lovecraft had famously said, "It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude." But, fact remains that there are few among us who aren't afraid of visiting a cemetery, especially past midnight.

There are, however, some bravehearts who earn their livelihood by walking among the dead. Seldom do they share stories of skeletons rising or white-robed spirits chasing the innocent. Their experiences mostly revolve around greater horrors in the society: theft, murder and other crimes. mid-day visited four graveyards to listen in...

Nariyalwadi Cemetery

The Mahalaxmi cemetery, established in 1927 is the final resting place for prominent Jews like former mayor E Moses, educator Rebecca Reuben and Padmashree award-winning poet Nissim Ezekiel. On an average, it receives 12 bodies daily. And, employees have stories of jinns (Arabic for demons) to share. Managing trustee Mohammad Salim Khan said, "We receive over 3,000 bodies a year. Many workers here have seen jinns sitting on the graves. While it's up to people to believe it or not, demons have been spotted over the years."

Sharing a strange experience, he said, "We have come across corpses, buried two decades ago, which have remained unscathed. They didn't rot or decay. It's like those people are sleeping. I don't know how to explain it, but even their clothes were untarnished by time."

Mount Carmel Church

Kharak Singh Kami, 39, has been working at this church, since the last six years, but he says he is yet to witness any lurking spirit or ghost. Incidentally, there are several rumours of ghost sighting around this cemetery. When mid-day asked Kami if he came across any ghost, he laughed and said, "My children keep asking me this question. But no I haven't."
He admits that the bright lights of the Lilavati Hospital nearby help alleviate his fears. "I don't venture near the cemetery area at night unless there's some emergency. But there's nothing to be scared of. There's lots of light here and even the wild bushes have been removed."

Juhu Sunni Kabristan

This graveyard is home to several luminaries – Md Rafi, Madhubala, Naseem Bano, Sahir Ludhianvi, Naushad, Ali Sardar Jafri, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Talat Mahmood and Parveen Babi.

Around six workers stay the night inside this mosque. Amir Ali Sheikh, who has worked here for a decade, said, "I have never experienced anything unusual. Initially, it was tough to see so many dead people. At one point, I went into severe depression. But I realise this is how life ends. There are definitely no spirits or ghosts here."

St Peter's Church

Three dogs and Bahadur Saheb, 52, who has spent almost every night in the last 30 years outside the cemetery, guard this graveyard. He said, "It's way easier now with wide roads and lights surrounding the graveyard. Back when I took this job, at 22, I used to shiver in the night. I couldn't sleep the first night on this job. The next few months, the tiniest of sounds woke me. But, I soon realised that fear is only in our minds."
But, there are real fears plaguing the area. Bahadur said, "One night, during my early days, the dogs wouldn't stop barking. When I went to check, I saw two thieves hiding behind a grave. They were perhaps bone stealers. I managed to nab them and handed them over to the cops. Thieves are common at graveyards, but it was tough to check thefts as the walls were weak two decades ago."

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