Burial of the Dead


He completes the task with the immediacy it demands. And he certifies his own completion of the task: between the dead and the living, there is no one to question him.

What are the chances that you work in an entry level position or even a middle level job in a hotel, a hospital, a software company, or a government organization? Or, for that matter, you could be a self-employed professional like a doctor, a lawyer, or a journalist. In all probability you are educated, know English, and are working in (or have interacted with) the corporate sector. Perhaps an MBA, or a student at an engineering college? You probably consider yourself a professional, or on the road to becoming one. Definitely your station in life is well above someone whose job is to bury unclaimed corpses from city hospitals.

I want to introduce the idea of who a professional is through a man whose life is dealing with dead bodies. Unclaimed dead bodies. This is not someone who is conventionally associated with the term ‘professional’. His name is Mahadeva. He came to Bangalore as a child when one day his mother simply walked out on her entire village and her own family in a huff. Mother and son lived on the streets; she worked to support him. Until the day she became very unwell. She brought herself and her son to the government run Victoria Hospital. There she was admitted in a state of delirium and her little son, Mahadeva, made the streets outside the hospital his home.

He found many playmates among the urchins there and soon that world engulfed him. It was the first time he had had anyone to play with. For little Mahadeva, it was his first experience of kinship and he lost himself completely in this new world. It was pure happenstance that one day someone told him his mother had died. Where had he been when that happened? Died? What was that? The hospital had been unable to wait for him and had disposed of the body. Now Mahadeva had nowhere to go. No family. A few people in the hospital ward where his mother had been admitted raised some money to help him go back to his village. He refused. Instead, he grew up running errands in the hospital. The hanger-on who had helped with his mother’s admission process and made a living by running errands for patients asked him to move in with him. He was an old man who had no one either. Mahadeva grew up under his tutelage; the hospital became his universe. And then, one day, the cops asked him to bury an unclaimed dead body and paid him Rs 200 for the job. This was when Mahadeva entered his profession and eventually became the go-to guy for burying the city’s unclaimed corpses. Every time the police picked up a dead body that had no claimants, Mahadeva was summoned. He had to do a turnkey job: Pull the stiff body from the morgue, hire a horse-drawn carriage, put the body in it and take it to a burial ground, dig the ground to bury the dead – all by himself, and for only Rs 200. After doing the job, he would hang around in the hospital to be summoned to dispose of the next unclaimed body. Mahadeva did his work with such dedication, focus, care and concern that soon he was very much in demand.

His work grew and he bought his own horse-drawn carriage, and between his horse and himself he was the undertaker to the abandoned.

One day, the horse died. People who had watched Mahadeva all these years came together and bought him an auto-rickshaw. The white auto-rickshaw, his hearse, carries the picture of the horse in memory of the animal who helped him take thousands of people to be laid to rest. It became the logo of his business and appears on his business card today.

Mahadeva has buried more than 42,000 corpses in his lifetime and his dedication has earned him phenomenal public recognition. Local petrol pumps do not charge him when his hearse is topped up and the chief minister of Karnataka felicitated him for his selfless service to the abandoned citizens of Bangalore. Mahadeva is proud of his work and business, and today his son has joined him. Mahadeva: the high performer, and a true professional.

What are the two qualities that Mahadeva has which differentiate a professional from someone who is simply professionally qualified? One is the ability to work unsupervised and, two, the ability to certify the completion of one’s work. Whenever Mahadeva got a call to reach the morgue, day or night, hail or high water, he arrived. Most of the time, it was a gruesome experience dealing with a dead body; there was no telling what had been the cause of death or state of decomposition.

In his business, Mahadeva does not choose his clients. He accepts them in whatever size, shape or state they come. He treats them with respect and care, with due dignity, covering them with a white sheet and placing a garland around their necks before burying them. The day he buried the man who had taken him home after his mother died, he had cried. He was special and Mahadeva had bought a garland as a mark of his respect. That day, it occurred to him that he should be garlanding all the bodies he buried, not just his benefactor’s. Everyone deserves respect and no one should feel ‘unwanted’ in death, even if life had treated them that way.

The cops do not supervise Mahadeva. He is not an employee of the hospital; he is the outsourcing agency the hospital has engaged for the disposal of all unwanted cadavers. He does not have a boss who writes his appraisal, giving him constructive feedback for continuous improvement. In most work environments, people who produce anything of economic value usually need supervision. A person who needs supervision is no professional. He is an amateur, maybe even an apprentice. Whenever Mahadeva picks up a corpse, it goes straight to the burial ground-no place else. He completes the task with the immediacy it demands. And he certifies his own completion of the task: between the dead and the living, there is no one to question him.

– from the book “The Professional” – by Subroto Bagchi

Comments
Ram Subramanian Says
Wednesday September 30th 2009

Mr. Bagchi,

It is a very poignant account of an ordinary man (like all of us) who has grown one day at a time doing what he is required to do with an undeterred sense of focus, like a man in a flow.

And, the manner in which you have brought about the idea of a professional is truly touching. Life is such a great teacher that we hardly look up to.

Thank You for bringing up the story of Mahadeva!!

    Shamim Says
    Thursday October 15th 2009

    The story of Mahadeva tocuhed me, especially his childhood when his mother died. But, circumstances made Mahadeva a professional. What about others who have to have reasons to be a professional?

    Pawan Kumar Says
    Friday September 5th 2014

    Hello Sir,

    I always thought that I had chose a set of values & principles to guide me through this life till my last breadth. I still don’t know if the path I’ve chosen is right or wrong.

    The story of Mahadeva has given me more clarity to my thoughts & beliefs. As you rightly said, Life is all about the choices we make while no one is watching us. Will take inspiration from this story & all the other stories from you book & I’m confident that these stories will guide me to become a better human being.

    Thanks a ton for this! My passion is to empower rural India & today marks a new start to my life, thanks again.

    May god bless you & your family with all the happiness and good health, take care.

    Regards,
    Pawan

RM Says
Friday October 2nd 2009

For me, the quality – structure, narration, impact – of this write up stands right up there, alongside your IIMB convocation address – “Go Kiss The World”.

Must go and get your book.

PS: I have all your other books.

Harish S V Says
Saturday October 3rd 2009

This article brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for introducing Mahadeva to the world and through him the idea of a “Professional”. Reminds me of “The Fallen Tomato Cart”.

VenuThummala Says
Monday October 5th 2009

Hi Subroto,

Last year I did wrote a comment on this blog that “GO KISS THE WORLD” just moved me and I bought the first one “HIGH..” and read it. Similarly I could not wait since i read about “PROFESSIONAL” in this blog.

Yesterday I bought it from Sapna, Jayanagar and started reading in the night. I completed around 50 pages. Amazing flow, I can’t stop praising about your writings. In last three weeks I started reading 3 to 4 books which I bought them during the last year but none of them were really making me interested. With your new book, I cant wait myself to complete it today and recommend to all my colleagues and friends.

Thanks and keep writing such wonderful master pieces.

Regards
Venu

Anupam N. Says
Monday October 5th 2009

Mr. Bagchi — as always, this is another remarkable piece with very valuable key takeaways. Thank you for writing such great stuff. Looking forward to reading on.

SS Says
Monday October 5th 2009

Dear Mr. Bagchi

This was a brilliant story which explained the difference between the true professional and the professionally qualified. Thanks for sharing this.
I am looking forward to your book reading session at Bangalore tomorrow.

Regards
SS

Chandra Says
Monday October 5th 2009

Wonderful story, very well explained how to be professional. Undergoing professional course doesn’t make one as a professional. One has to practice to be a professional.

Gurudatta Says
Tuesday October 6th 2009

Dear Sir,

I finally could lay hands on your newest book. I have gone through the first 2 sections of the book. Unlike your earlier 2 books, this one is different… we need to keep visiting this book every now and then, its like watching oneself in the mirror each day, one day we think there is an acne on the face and try to cure it, while the other day we look at the over-grown hair and try to check it… in general its a constant attempt to make ourself presentable and similar way, your book ‘The Professional’ is like a mirror we have to keep tuning ourselves every now and then reading it and reflecting at ourselves… some of what you have written may be what we already are, but still since it defines a professional we can always be proud that we are like that, and other things we can focus and try to improve.

Thank you for writing such a wonderful book, it provides something or the other to be looked at in one’s life time as a professional.

Regards,

Gurudatta.

shu Says
Thursday October 8th 2009

Hi Subroto!

I have read “Go kiss the world” and have loved it completely.. But this piece is completely different.. It is so moving and it makes one introspect. It moved me to tears.

Amazing!!!

Kaustuv Says
Thursday October 8th 2009

It makes me think of whether I can call myself a professional and how many that I know will qualify to be in the same league as Mahadeva.

P Says
Thursday October 8th 2009

its what we define as professional or non professional!
I’d say its simply human instincts!

Its a wonderful story for people to understand What i would call the human gene!

Dr T V Ananthanarayanan Says
Thursday October 8th 2009

Hai Subroto,

I am reading you latest book -‘The professional’-and kudos to you on the remarkable ideas and live examples with which we can relate.I will strongly recommend this book to all the professionals and even to aspiring students.You seem to have a way with words whch comes so easily and keeps the attention of the reader.I read a number of self development books and this one really stands out as brilliantand remarkable.It is indeed inspiring.

Regards and my best wishes,

Dr Ananthanarayanan

TIMMANA GOUDA D Says
Thursday October 8th 2009

In the eyes of Subroto, oh my god, this was next best piece , after piece on lending to beggers story narrated by you..This is very touching account of how each one of us while earning a living , be useful to many other in life, one can be useful to family, siblings, colleagues , society the world at large while doing ones work..

G. Inbavanan Says
Friday October 9th 2009

Respected Mr. Bagchi,

At the launch function in Bangalore, Mahadeva made a statement that he vouches for what is written in the book as being the “Truth”. He probably made the statement as he “experienced” you through the numerous interactions that you must have had with him.

I have completed my first reading of your book and I can make a similar statement not because I have experienced you sufficiently to make such a strong statement; but because I can relate probably every statement, principle, or experience of yours narrated in the book to something similar in my ‘Professional’ life spanning almost three decades. As I relate the book to my own experiences, I know that it cannot be anything but the “Truth”.

The profoundness of “Truth” lies in its simplicity. This is personified in your book, “The Professional”.

Congratulations and thank you for such a wonderful offering.

With warm regards.

– Inba

Abhishek Prasad Says
Friday October 9th 2009

Thank you for sharing.

Kishan Says
Friday October 9th 2009

Dear Mr.Bagchi,

This is indeed really inspiring. There is so much to learn from life and everyone with whom we interact. I really admire the way you drive home the point of being truly ‘professional’.

I’ve loved your previous books, blog posts and articles as well. Looking forward to read this book.

Thanks again,
KK

Sona Says
Saturday October 10th 2009

Dear Mr.Bagchi

It was a great honour to meet and listen to you during the book reading session. Further, meeting Mr.Mahadeva was a great experience. He is truly inspiring. Thanks a ton for the opportunity.
‘The Professional’ is unputdownable! I wish I had had this book when I started my career. I will definitely share it with all my colleagues especially the new joinees. Thank you for sharing the wisdom with the world.

Regards
Sona

praveen Says
Sunday October 11th 2009

with reference to the chapter doctor, heal thyself, page 18, the professional, amit kumar is not a surgeon, ref:(www.indiaenews.com/pdf/94875.pdf).
u have written such a wonderful book , the fact that amit kumar is not a qualified surgeon should have been incorporated.
me being a doctor , i was very stressed by the incident and the news of amit kumar not being a doctor allayed some of my fears that our profession had degraded to such an extent.

AS Says
Sunday October 11th 2009

hello sir :)

yesterday i got a copy of ur book the professional ( a friend recommended me. the book is amazing, though i have read only 28 pages but its too good :)

Arpit Says
Monday October 12th 2009

Hi Subroto!

Thnx for narrating the professional dedication of ‘Mahadeva'(someone who hardly faces any competition in his chosen field).”Between the dead & living there was no one to question him” was really very touching…

Regards
Arpit

R K Says
Monday October 12th 2009

A wonderful book where author has shared his thoughts and experiences in a most simple & clear manner. It makes crystal clear for an professional to decide what is right and what is not. I want to mention two points here:
1)The book should not be read in one go. Instead, in my view, only one section should be read every week for maximum learning and impact. This will allow the thoughts and ideas to percolate throughout that week and will also give an opportunity to implement them in day-to-day work for that week.
2)This book should be read by not only professionals but every human being.Infact, it should be recommended as a text book in our schools and professional colleges.
We are deeply indebted to author for coming out with this book & sharing his life long experiences.Thank you Sir.The onus is now upto the reader to apply the learnings in day-to-day professional activities.

Sachin Says
Tuesday October 13th 2009

An excellent read for all professionals!

PB MISHRA Says
Wednesday October 14th 2009

Dear Subrato Sir,
I have been a die hard fan of yours since you started writing your columns in TOI. Then your articles on mind tree web page. Believe me i had all collection of your writings. Your last 2 books. And this one too. A great one and its really inspiring for people like “us” who are really understanding the real meaning of”PROFESSIONAL”

Do continue with your writings & en lighting the world.

Regards
Your Die Had Fan

Srikanth Says
Wednesday October 14th 2009

I finished reading the book. It was absolutely thrilling. The first chapter ‘Burial of the dead’ did it for me and i really enjoyed and wondered on each and every chapter and your real life time experiences. Thanks Subroto for this wonderful book. Here is the review i have written about it. When you have some free time (real free time), please do read: http://srik-journey.blogspot.com/2009/10/book-review-professional.html

Ivar Says
Thursday October 15th 2009

Your writing makes me think about my purpose in this world. I am one of the person that you had defined in this blog : educated ( now what is the definition of being educated, no one is sure of ), knows english and works in an MNC … and yet, purpose of my life is unknown.

Nitin Jain Says
Thursday October 15th 2009

Dear Sir,

From the first time when I read about you in Reader’s Digest to your recent master piece, I learn something new every time I read anything written by you.

Pls keep writing.

Thanks,
Nitin

gajesh Says
Thursday October 15th 2009

Thanks for this story. It was truely a professional one

Friday October 16th 2009

Dear Mr. Bagchi,

‘The Professional’ is a superb one to read and Act. From ‘The High-Performance Entrepreneur’ to ‘The Professional’, I have been following :). You are always around, either through Forbes India article or books like ‘The Professional’. Let me tell you, the chapters wrapped in stories were the best and most recalled one. It was the one chapter ‘Taking Charge’ published in one magazine that prompted me to own the book fresh.

Best Wishes,
Nibras, LeadCap,
Bangalore.

Murthy.SN Says
Friday October 16th 2009

Mr. Bagchi,
I have been one of your fans right from the days you have been with Wipro. I have all the books you have written. Also happened to attend your one day workshop for the doctors at Narayana hrudalaya. Watching you deliver lecture and reading the books/articles you have written are the stuff of dreams for a professional’s professional. Your take on INTEGRITY is something I will always remember and practice. I think one’s integrity of character leads to build up of trust, and trust leads to collaborative partnership… which leads to results. Thanks for your thought leaderhip and keep them coming !
Best regards,

ARAVIND Says
Sunday October 18th 2009

Mr. Bagchi,

This is amazing and mindblowing masterpiece with great insight.

Thanking you for bringing out such great ideas in simple language.

Just amazing!!

Regards
Aravind Warrier

Pradeep Says
Tuesday October 20th 2009

Dear Sir,

I went through your book “Professional” and found it as much impressive as your earlier Book “Go Kiss the world”. As part of your book promotion activities you would be travelling to different cities.I hope you are also scheduled to visit Hyderabad for promotion/book reading. Please let me know if you have any plans of visiting Hyderabad in near future.

Regards,
Pradeep

Nilesh Sane Says
Saturday October 24th 2009

In a world where abilities are constantly added to an individual’s personality, how would you propose a person who has to manage multiple tasks (Mahadeva was lucky he had the same task in his job over a long time) adapt himself/herself to the ever increasing demands of the profession?

After reading the story, I envy Mahadeva for he need not learn new abilities every year.

Ravikanth Says
Tuesday October 27th 2009

Thanks Mr. Bagchi. It was a great reminder to me.

Sekhar Says
Tuesday October 27th 2009

Dear Mr Bafchi,

Thanks for giving a big moral to most of the people and sharing an inspirational story

regards
Sekhar

Meenakshi Says
Tuesday November 3rd 2009

I guess the poignant underlying thought behind Mahadeva and your writing is “why does professionalism die once inside the walls of an office?”. Why is it that great HR teams and management teams are unable to bring out the “love for work and growth” in an individual or team and use the carrot and stick method of appraisals and performance.

Mr. Bagchi with your experience of starting and running a successful organization I look to you for these answers and ask you why does a Mahadeva die when he steps inside his office premises.

M Thomas Prabu Says
Thursday November 5th 2009

Thank you and GOD BLESS Mahadeva

Regards

Thomas

    Taylor Says
    Monday December 10th 2012

    Same problem here Boone, this code has been shaerd on various sites, but in every one, this function cac_forum_reply_url has been left out, rendering the whole kit unusuable help?

Anu Ramya Says
Thursday November 5th 2009

Hi Subroto

Absolutely love your articles. Two firm favourites are Making of MindTree 1 and 2. Just curious , when is Making of MindTree 3 out? Our 10 anniversary year ?:-))

Dr.asmita phadke Says
Friday November 6th 2009

Dear Mr Bagchi,

Thanks for the story of Mahadev.

Friday November 13th 2009

Subroto, An enticing snapshot of your work this, does drive me to read this one. Thanks for sharing!

Ravindra Pattar Says
Wednesday November 25th 2009

Dear Sir,

Hats off ! the way you have narrated a true story and an striking metaphor. Infact when I started reading I had goose-bumps and end of it I had tears in my eyes.

sanjay yadav Says
Tuesday May 25th 2010

Mr. Bagchi

Just wanted to say that your writings are simple, clear and most impressive.Whenever I read them they provide me fresh perspective to look at the world. May God be with you always.

Tenzin Choekey Says
Thursday April 21st 2011

The above article on the ‘Burial of the dead’ brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for enlightening us and helping us in becoming a better person. Will be looking forward to garp your book ASAP.

ashok Says
Wednesday February 22nd 2012

Dear Mr Bagchi
The way you defined a professional is amazing.
I am fortunate enough to listen to you in a programme by British council of education held at SAI International school Bhubaneshwar where you narrated the story of Mahadeva.

Harish Lakshminarasimhan Says
Tuesday July 16th 2013

The narration is really fantastic. It is definitely a beacon light to the negligent Professional. Presently Mahadeva is know as Trivikrama Mahadeva. Though Trivikrama Mahadeva’s auto is seen by most of the commuters around Bangalore they do not know his real story. Many persons’life has many such incidents. In the fast rat race of modern life everyone is worried of their backs only!

Bujjibabu Says
Friday November 29th 2013

Hi all.!!! in this the honorable author Mr.subroto bagchi explains, how a normal person to be a professional.
i think professionals are not from great people/family but from only his thoughts & sincerity.

Ajinkya Says
Friday May 2nd 2014

Hello sir,
story you wrote here is very good as story,
but its not as effective as it should be,
cause there are different situations in real life and Mahadeva’s life.
ofcource as company owner anyone will like it, cause everyone wants free outsourced workers. but as employee its nothing worth.
if we say Mahadeva was thought to well education he would not have done this work and for this much dedication, but in professions like software or others we do need such educated peoples, and to do study we ofcource need money, and time.

so as part of this, we also need return of the same.

in my opinion this story was awesome,
one thing to take from this,
Love your job and not company or people u work with,
cause Company can stop loving you at any moment.

Thanks.

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Tuesday March 17th 2015

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Tuesday June 2nd 2015

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Friday June 5th 2015

A must read for all who claim very often that they are ‘Professional’.
You are on the dot and bang on target.

Thursday July 7th 2016

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