The neurosurgeon has helped hundreds of patients in his lifetime and is remembered by people around him as a person who put humanity first. But in his death, Dr Simon was denied dignity by residents of the city he served.
In fact, his family couldn’t even bid a final goodbye to the doctor, who had contracted the disease from patients he was treating. He passed away at the Apollo Hospital in Vanagaram in Chennai on 19 April and at 9 pm his body was handed over to the concerned authorities.
His family and colleagues along with corporation officials initially went to TP Chatram in Kilpauk for the last rites. But when they were on their way, they were told a crowd of 100 people had gathered near the burial ground in a bid to stop them.
According to the police, local civic workers had informed the residents about the burial and people had gathered to protest, stirred by rumours that this could lead to the spread of the virus.
The ambulance carrying Dr Simon’s body was then diverted to the Velangadu cemetery to avoid any altercations. However, even there they were met with sticks and stones.
Dr Pradeep still recollects how the corporation officials had run away because of the attack and had to return later at 11pm to perform the rites quietly. He along with two ward boys and a policeman managed to finally lay the doctor to rest.
“At that time all that I had was fear and responsibility. I have to finish burying him and run for my life. I can’t run away from my responsibility,” he told The Quint.