G Channamma, 43, doesn't know what an International Women's Day is. Like everyday, she will go to the grave at Hanumanthapura Hindu Burial Ground in Srirampura in Mysore to help bury bodies today.
She's been doing this for 13 years.
According to a report in Times of India, Channamma was forced to take up gravedigging as a profession after her husband passed away in the year 2000. "After trying some odd jobs which weren't enough to feed my girls, I decided to take up my husband's job. I approached the BBMP authorities who were initially sceptical to assign a gravedigger's job to a woman," she said.
In 2003, she was finally appointed for a monthly salary of Rs 1000.
The first day she ran away screaming when she was asked to lift a corpse. She couldn't sleep and eat for a few days, she said. However, she had to go back because that was the only she could feed her four children.
Channamma is not the only woman who's a gravedigger in the country. Baby, a 57-year-old woman has been digging graves in a cemetery close to a Catholic church near Kochi in Kerala for the last four decades. She dug the first grave when she was 17.
"My uncle was a grave digger at this cemetery. My mother Kunjamma had to do the same job to bring up me and my sister after my father died. I used to accompany her to the cemetery," she said in an interview to PTI.
The first time she went to the cemetery, her mother opened a grave. "I was shocked to see a half decayed body and taken aback by the stench that came out of the pit." Baby ran back home. But that was the last time she escaped the reality that continued for years.
A couple of years ago, her husband was diagnosed of cancer. "I owe a big sum to the people around as I have been forced to borrow money to meet the medical expenses of my husband," she said.
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