Kapil Dev to receive ashes of Indian Sikh migrant on Sunday

Friday, July 23, 2010

Melbourne/New Delhi, July 23 (ANI): Former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev will receive the ashes of Indian immigrant Pooran Singh for relocation to his homeland 63 years after he died.

The event will take place on July 25 (Sunday) at the Warrnambool Cemetery, Otway Road, Warrnambool. It will be preceded by a lunch hosted by Victoria’s Sikh community at the Warrnambool Football Club on Hyland Street, Warrnambool.

The ceremony will be followed by an interview and picture opportunities with Kapil Dev, Harmel Uppal (Pooran’s great-nephew), Alice Guyett-Wood (from the funeral home) and Manpreet Singh, SBS Punjabi Radio.

The Victorian Sikh community will then bid farewell to Pooran ingh’s ashes7

It maybe recalled that in 1899, 30-year-old Pooran Singh left his family in Bilga, a village in Punjab, to immigrate to Australia.

He worked as a hawker, selling goods laden in his horse-drawn wagon, travelling from one country town to the other. He spent the remaining 47 years of his life in country Victoria, dying in 1947 in Warrnambool, aged 77 years, single and childless.

He left instructions to be cremated, and so Guyett’s Funerals in Warrnambool sent his body to Melbourne, to what was the only crematorium in Victoria at that time. His ashes, contained in a plastic cylinder, were mailed back to the funeral home.

As Pooran’s last wish was that his ashes be returned to India and immersed in the River Ganges, Guyett’s Funerals kept his ashes for 63 years in case family members came to claim them. In the late 1980s the Warrnambool Cemetery Trust gave them pride of place in a niche in the Warrnambool cemetery wall.

Alice Guyett-Wood told the Punjabi radio show SBS that before her father Jack Guyett died in 1986, he expressed regret that Guyetts Funerals had been unable to fulfil Pooran’s wish.

As well as being broadcast on SBS Radio, this moving story was published in an Indian newspaper on June 25, attracting the interest of legendary Indian cricketer Kapil Dev. In an interview with SBS Punjabi Radio journalist/presenter Manpreet Singh, Kapil Dev expressed his willingness to travel to Australia to collect Pooran Singh’s ashes and return them to his family.

Pooran’s living relatives were traced to a village in Punjab, where they still live in the house that was built with the money Pooran bequeathed to them. The house in the village Uppal Bhopa still bears the inscription “Pooran Singh (brother of Sultani Ram) of Australia”

Then, the story was picked up in England where Harmel Uppal, one of Pooran Singh’s great-nephews, lives.

Since the story was first broadcast many Warrnambool locals have come forward with personal memories of Pooran Singh, photographs of the much-loved Indian hawker, and even his horse wagon has been found, fully preserved.

Pooran’s ashes will travel back to India a day after the ceremony, accompanied by Kapil Dev, Harmel Uppal and SBS broadcaster Manpreet Singh. (ANI)

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