Minara Begum died on Monday night. At 60 years old, she could no longer withstand the continuing suffering caused to her by a slew of old-age complications, including a deadly heart disease.
On Monday, the Ishwarganj native silently passed away at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital (MMCH).
After her passing, her two daughters Sumi and Suraiya Akter, 27 and 25 years old respectively, fell into real crisis. With the strict lockdown in full effect, they could not think of a way to get the body to their remote village home in Ishwarganj. Although ambulances were available, their financial insolvency did not allow for that option.
Helpless, they stood beside their mother's dead body at MMCH.
Around 11:30 in the night, someone informed Alok Sarker of their situation. Alok is the vice-president of Help Plus Mymensingh, a volunteers' forum. Without wait, Alok called up Ali Yusuf, a prominent volunteer of the city.
Within an hour of this, Sumi and Suraiya were at home with their mother's body. Within this time, Yusuf had managed an ambulance and found a donor to pay for it, while Alok rounded up three more volunteers and accompanied the sisters on their journey.
Once there, the volunteers also offered to arrange for and bear the cost of Minara's burial, but the indebted family politely refused it, thanking them for all they've done already, Alok said while speaking to The Daily Star yesterday.
In another two hours, the volunteers were back in the city, ready to attend to some other distress call. This organisation and efficiency of the volunteer networks in the city already has a reputation, and more plaudits soon flowed in for this particular act.
"It is a remarkably noble gesture. I thank the volunteers who came forward to support the helpless family," said upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Ishwarganj Md Zakir Hossain.
Saluting the volunteers for such a humanitarian act at such a critical time, the UNO said, "Their activities are exceptional beyond doubt. I appreciate the volunteers and seek their good health so that they can continue helping people like this."
At a time when people are in extreme fear to step outside, helping others seems like a far cry, said a neighbour of Minara. "That the volunteers would do all this for the family, braving the pandemic, shows how fearless they are with their mission."
Talking to this correspondent, Ali Yusuf informed they have already performed the burial rituals of 15 people from Mymensingh and Netrakona since the start of this second wave of Covid-19. And this is not just limited to Muslims, as six of the funeral rites were of people belonging to the Hindu community.
He also thanked the patrons who enable their organisation to keep up the good work, without even asking for recognition. For example, Minara's ambulance was paid for by an assistant professor of Department of Botany at Govt Ananda Mohan College who specifically asked not to be named.