"Ram Naam Satya Hai," chant the mourners in a funeralprocession as they solemnly carry the mortal remains of a man through themeandering lanes of Malda in West Bengal.
At another funeral, some 2,000 kilometres away in Mumbai, anothergroup of pallbearers carry a bier to the crematorium, again chanting "RamNaam Satya Hai".
Nothing unusual about the two funerals, but for the fact that thepallbearers wore skull caps and sported flowing beards–they are Muslims, andchanting the name of a Hindu God is akin to sin for them.
Binay Saha died at a ripe old age of 90 in Loyaitola in Maldadistrict of West Bengal. His is the only Hindu family in the locality of 100odd Muslim households.
His two sons–Kamal and Shyamal–were distraught, and also worriedabout how will they perform the last rites of their father during the lockdownwith no Hindus around.
"Our father died of old age ailments. We were anxious abouthow to cremate him during the lockdown. None of our relatives would be able tocome. Actually, we should not have worried. Our neighbours came forward andeverything was carried out smoothly," said a visibly moved Shyamal.
Help for him was just a door away. At the home of Saddam Sheikh.
"I was the first to know about his death on Tuesday. We areneighbours…and we did our duty as neighbours," said Sheikh.
"No religion is greater than humanity," said the man,his furrowed face betraying pathos and calm satisfaction at a good deed done.
"Irrespective of our faith, we stay together," said aproud Razia Bibi, the panchayat chief.
Premchandra Buddhalal Mahavir, a resident of Gareeb Nagar localityof Bandra in Mumbai, also died during the nationwide lockdown.
After the death of his 68-year-old father, his son Mohan madefrantic calls to his relatives and friends who could not come down to his homefor the last rites.
"I could not contact my two elder brothers residing inNalasopara area of neighbouring Palghar district. I informed my uncles inRajasthan about my father's death but they too could not step out of theirhouse because of the lockdown," Mohan told PTI.
Plunged in abject despair, Mohan got help from his Muslimneighbours, who not only carried on their shoulders his dead father but alsohelped with legal documentation.
"We knew Premchandra Mahavir quite well. In times like thesewe should show humanity transcending religious barriers," said YusufSiddique Sheikh, a neighbour of Mahavir, apparently mindful of the tear in thecountry's secular fabric. And probably thinking 'no religion is greater thanhumanity', as an obscure Saddam Sheikh of Malda put it.