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Where death is the beginning…

‘Stories from the Mortuary’ a talk by associate professor in forensic medicine at Goa Medical College Bambolim, Madhu Ghodkirekar will be held at Museum Of Goa on June 2. NT BUZZ finds out more

VENITA GOMES

When you think of a mortuary, you generally picture a freezing dark room where the dead are lying covered with a white sheet. The space seems scary and the faint-hearted wouldn’t dare to walk alone inside due to the numerous ghost stories linked to such places.

However, it is the job of the forensic department to constantly handle cases of the dead, retrieving evidence related to various crimes. And Madhu Ghodkirekar from Cuncolim- Mardol has been working in forensics for over 20 years. Besides being an associate professor at GMC, he is also the general secretary of the Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. At an upcoming lecture on Sunday, Madhu will share his real life experiences of working in the morgue and will present around eight to 10 case stories which he has come across.

Ghodkirekar comes from a rural setting.  In fact, before getting into forensics, he had a completely different perception and idea about the dead. Just like many people, he too believed in ghosts and spirits. “My perception about the dead went through different phases. Firstly, as a villager I thought that the spirit or the ghost of the dead person would come back to haunt,” he says. In fact, years ago, his village witnessed one of the first suicide cases. “We were all terrified and scared. There were stories of his spirit haunting and therefore we never mastered the courage to pass through the hut where he ended his life. Though it was the shortest route to my school, I preferred going the longer way,” he recalls.

While he was studying forensics however, he got to face his real fear. He says: “During the course we had to dissect a real human body, we don’t call it a dead body; we call it a human body.  There is no room for ghosts and all. This helped me get rid of the fear in me. However, later I started thinking of death as an event that happens to anybody in your surroundings.”

 And Ghodkirekar has had a chance to work on many interesting cases during the course of his work. “It was exciting to work. But sadly, the emotions of the people who lost their dear ones were played with. Not everyone liked the idea of news as there were times when the information was misleading to the people, due to confusion or some other reason. But we knew the truth,” he says.

With the help of an example Ghodkirekar points at an important difference between their job and that of the police. He says: “If someone is found dead in a well after doing the autopsy we can say it is due to drowning. However, how the person fell or whether he was pushed into the well or whether he committed suicide, we rarely are able to tell. The job of finding how and what lies in the hands of police. We can state the reason of the death but finding the truth lies in the hands of authorities like police and others.”

And while there have been spooky tales related to the morgue, Ghodkirekar does not get taken up by these tales readily. Relating one such instance at the GMC morgue, he recalls: The morgue of GMC has sliding doors and one need not touch these to open them as the sensor helps in identifying the person and the door opens. Many people working there had begun complaining to me that around 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. the doors of the mortuary would open even though there was no person standing infront.”

As the tale began circulating, everybody was scared to go in the mortuary during that time.  Madhu then decided to check the CCTV footage. “I was shocked too when I saw it actually happened but I knew that this wasn’t the whole truth,” he narrates.

After analysing the footage for over three to four days he found that a pipe near the door was an entry point for a rat. The rat would come down the pipe and the door sensor would detect him and slide open. “The rat would pass through all the doors and it would look as if the doors opened by themselves. These are some of the small things that ended becoming big things,” he says.

He also talks about the career prospects and says that it takes a lot to be in the forensic field. “You have to choose between forensic science and forensic medicine. Plus the job options are limited as the forensic laboratory is owned by the government. In other states there are various other options. The determination and wit to work hard needs to be there in every person,” Ghodkirekar adds. 

Ghodkirekar has been a part of over nine national and international publications and two original researches. He is also the author of ‘Antarmanil Anant Kathaa’.

After years of experience working closely with the dead, Ghodkirekar believes that death is the ultimate truth. It will definitely happen and one cannot escape it. “For many, death is the end of the story but for us it’s the beginning,” he says.

(Madhu Ghodkirekar will speak on the topic ‘Stories from the Mortuary’ on June 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Museum of Goa, Pilerne. Details: info.museumofgoa@gmail.com/ 7722089666)

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