23 November, 2020

24 Hours In Life Of Esther Shanthi | Taming Goons And Living In Chambers Of Death

Esther Shanthi leads the extra-ordinary life of managing a crematorium in Chennai. Working 12 hours a day for a salary of Rs 12,000 a month, she has been an enigma of sorts

Photograph by G.C. Shekhar
24 Hours In Life Of Esther Shanthi | Taming Goons And Living In Chambers Of Death

Drums announce the arrival of the first corpse at the cremation and burial ground in Otteri, Chennai. As the procession moves ­towards the cremation hall in the 14-acre complex, a lady on a two-wheeler arrives at the large smoke-stained hall that houses the ­cremation chamber. She checks if the furnace has ­attained its optimum temperature The son of the ­deceased lights a camphor on his father’s chest before the body is thrust into the fire.

Thus begins another working day for Esther Shanthi, the supervisor of Chennai’s second-largest burial and cremation ground in a locality notorious for high crime rates. For the past five years, the 40-year-old mother of three has been skilfully managing the facility.

“This place used to be a den of gambling, ganja and booze. But after Shanthi akka took charge, she brought things under control. She not only confronted the men who misused the grounds, but also involved the women of the neighbourhood in stopping illegal activities,” says Satish, one of the five attendants who assist...



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