Kapil Dev has volunteered to fulfil the last wishes of an Indian immigrant to Australia who died 63 years ago and receive his ashes for immersing them in the Ganga.
In 1899, Pooran Singh, then 30 years old, left Bilga village in Punjab state to migrate to Australia. He worked as a hawker, selling goods from his horse-drawn wagon, travelling across Australia. He spent the remaining 47 years of his life in Victoria, and died in 1947 in Warrnambool, aged 77.
Single and childless, Singh left instructions that he be cremated. His body was sent to Melbourne to what was the only crematorium in Victoria at that time. His ashes were sent back in a plastic cylinder to Warrnambool’s Guyett’s Funerals, a statement from the Australian High Commission said.
Singh’s last wish was that his ashes be returned to India and immersed in the Ganga. So Guyett’s Funerals kept his ashes for 63 years in case his family members came to claim them.
In a radio programme broadcast in June this year, Alice Guyett-Wood said before her father Jack Guyett died in 1986, he expressed regret that Guyett’s Funerals had been unable to fulfil Singh’s wish.
The story was heard by Indian cricketer Kapil Dev, who expressed his willingness to travel to Australia to collect Singh’s ashes and return them to his family.
Singh’s relatives have been traced to a village in Punjab, where they still live in a house that was built with the money he had bequeathed them. The house in Uppal Bhopa village still bears the inscription “Pooran Singh (brother of Sultani Ram) of Australia”. Harmel Uppal, one of Pooran Singh’s great-nephews, who lives in Britain, heard of the story and will travel to Australia with Kapil Dev to receive Singh’s ashes.
The Victorian Sikh community will organise a special ceremony in Warrnambool July 25 to bid farewell to the ashes.
Photographs of the Indian hawker and even his horse-drawn wagon have been found, fully preserved. Pooran's ashes will travel to India a day after the ceremony, accompanied by Kapil and Uppal.