A fistful of ashes of legendary Indian journalist and author Khushwant Singh have been brought to his birthplace in Pakistan's Punjab province to fulfill his desire to be reunited with his roots.
"The son returned to his soil after 99 years," said Muhammad Hayat, ex-head master of the Government Boys High School Hadali, where Singh studied.
Hadali, some 280 km from here, is a town in Khushab district in Punjab province and was Singh's birthplace, who passed away on March 20 in New Delhi.
His ashes were mixed with cement to fix a marble plaque under a Shisham tree where he played as a child.
Pakistani writer and columnist Fakir Syed Aijazuddin had brought Singh's ashes from India to Pakistan.
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The plaque reads, "A Sikh, a scholar and a son of Hadali Punjab. This is where my roots are. I have nourished them with tears of nostalgia."
After fixing the plaque, Aijazuddin read the morning and evening prayers of the Sikhs before teachers, students of the school and locals.
Among the excited crowd were the headmaster and the teachers who had met Singh on his last visit to Hadali in 1987.
"A large number of Hadalians turned up in 1987 to welcome Singh at his hometown. Addressing us, he said that coming back to Hadali at the time meant as much to it as it meant for us to going on a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina," Muhammad Farooq Rana, headmaster of Government High School Hadali, recalled.
He added "We were excited after learning that a fistful of his ashes were being brought back to his birthplace. We are proud of Singh."
"While installing the marble plaque, I felt Singh's invisible presence among us. It was almost as if he had crossed the border with me just to be present at Hadali," Aijazuddin told PTI.
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"Singh's readership knows no boundaries. He has as many admirers in Pakistan as he does in India. Perhaps this was another reason for his deep attachment to Pakistan and his origin. When, I last met Khushwant Sahib in New Delhi on March 4 he expressed his wish to be buried in Hadali.
His family agreed to make available some of the ashes which I brought to Pakistan," he said.
Singh's house is Hadali does not exist anymore. All one finds there is wild bushes and the plot is said to have acquired by a local resident.