Former India cricket captain Kapil Dev, who flew down to Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia to bring home the ashes of Pooran Singh, an Indian hawker, who died in Australia over 63 years ago, insisted yesterday that remains should be handed over to Pooran Singh's nephew, Harmel Uppal first.
Uppal travelled from Wolverhampton in the UK to represent his family, according to Alice Wood, who served at the funeral parlour.
"Kapil said that the ashes must be presented to Mr Uppal (and) not to be given to him as it was a sacred family matter. Therefore, the ashes were handed over to the relative," said Wood.
Kapil was moved by the story of the childless hawker whose ashes had been held by a funeral home for decades in the hope that relatives would one day claim them, "I think it's an amazing story. This is definitely different to anything in my life I have ever done," India's 1983 World Cup-winning captain told the Warrnambool Standard.
Australian broadcaster Manpreet Singh said Kapil offered to bring the ashes of Pooran Singh home after hearing how the migrant who died in 1947 aged 77 had asked that his body be cremated and his ashes be taken to India and immersed in the River Ganges.
But attempts to contact his family in Bilga, a village in Punjab which he had left in 1899, were unsuccessful and the funeral home held on to the ashes in case Singh's wishes could one day be fulfilled.
Manpreet Singh said a chance discussion with Kapil about the treatment of Indians in Australia prompted her to tell the former cricketer the story of the Australian funeral home which had tried to fulfill the hawker's final wish.
Wood added: "A Sikh priest officiated. It was a very moving occasion and the Sikh community was such a pleasure to meet. More than 200 Sikhs of all ages came from Melbourne for the occasion.
"We talked to Kapil, who is a wonderful man. He was gracious and courteous and is the perfect ambassador for his country. We talked about how such an act can bring countries together.
"My husband (Greg) has always respected Kapil as a player, but now after meeting him, we value Kapil Dev even more as a person."
Kapil is expected to return to Delhi tomorrow.