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Migration Help 26th July 2010 01:28 AM

Kapil Dev grants Indian migrant's last wish
Legendary cricketer Kapil Dev Sunday helped grant the final wish of an Indian migrant who died in Australia 63 years ago -- to bring his ashes back home.

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, Dev travelled to Warrnambool in Victoria to collect the remains.

"I think it's an amazing story. This is definitely different to anything in my life I have ever done," Dev told the Warrnambool Standard.

"This story has touched many, many people's hearts. This is the bridge between the people to say you can love each other.

"It's one of the best, emotional stories with a happy ending."

Australian broadcaster Manpreet Singh said Dev 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.

At the time, Warrnambool's Guyett's Funerals sent the body to Melbourne to be cremated -- then the only place in the state with a crematorium -- and Singh's ashes were mailed back to them in a plastic cylinder. 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.

In the 1980s, after further attempts to contact his descendants failed, the Warrnambool Cemetery Trust placed the ashes in a niche in the Warrnambool cemetery wall.

Manpreet Singh said a chance discussion with Dev about the treatment of Indians in Australia -- then a hot topic due to several violent assaults on foreign students -- prompted her to tell the former cricketer the story of the Australian funeral home which had tried to fulfill the hawker's final wish.

"He said, 'I am really touched by what the Guyett family has done and I would like to do this,'" she told AFP.

The story of Pooran Singh, who spent the last four decades of his life travelling between country towns selling goods from a horse-drawn wagon, was taken up by Indian media last month and his relatives traced to Punjab and England.

Manpreet Singh said it was discovered that relatives were living in a house built with the money he had sent home from Victoria and which bore an inscription saying it was that of Pooran Singh of Australia.



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