Karimul Haque’s house in Jalpaiguri’s Dhalabari village was a flurry of activity when two men came looking for him one sunny June morning. Haque was busy overseeing breakfast preparations for some 200 people — a new normal for his family during the pandemic.
The two brothers said their mother, Gyaneshwari Rai, an asthma patient, had died in their sister’s house some 15 km away, and they were not able to get her body back for the last rites. Everyone had turned their backs on the family, fearing the septuagenarian had died of COVID-19. With no transport, not even an ambulance, their only hope was Haque, the ‘Bike Ambulance Dada’.
Within hours, Haque had sped off on his bike ambulance with its customised hospital cot attached as a side-car, and had brought the body to the Rais’ house for the final rites and cremation. “We were not with her when she passed away,” said Bhim, one of the deceased woman’s sons. “The least we could do was send her off with dignity, with full Hindu rites as she would have wished. Thanks to Karim-da, we could perform our final duty towards our mother.”