THE sometimes-strained relationship between Australia and India will take a positive turn this weekend in south-west Victoria, with international focus on the repatriation of a former hawker's ashes.
Sixty-three years after immigrant Pooran Singh died in Warrnambool a team of Indian community representatives led by cricketing great Kapil Dev will retrieve the ashes to be taken to the River Ganges.
In the throng is Mr Singh's great-nephew Harmel Uppal, who arrived in the south-west yesterday overawed by the significance of the weekend.
His interview yesterday with The Standard was a taste of the media frenzy that will follow him as he accompanies his now-famous relative’s ashes.
“It’s hard to explain the emotions,” Mr Uppal said.
“It’s fantastic being here — so significant to our family.
“I think this will be the start of many visits by Indian people here.”
Mr Uppal is a 47-year-old father of two who works in the clothing industry in the UK, a far cry from the rural village of Uppal Bhopa in India where his father and Pooran were raised.
“I first heard about him when I was about five or six and remember being told he moved to Australia when he was young,” Mr Uppal said.
“A few months ago family members told us there was a lot of media interest in the village and we later learnt about the story of great uncle and his ashes.
“It was because of his savings he sent to India the rest of his family’s poverty was lifted.”
Tomorrow Mr Uppal will accompany Kapil Dev to the Warrnambool cemetery with a Sikh priest for a ceremony to retrieve Pooran’s ashes.
They will fly out of Australia on Monday to visit the village and then on to the Sikh holy place of Haridwar to cast the ashes onto the Ganges, fulfilling Pooran’s will.
“Preparations at the village have already started. It will be an important occasion,” Mr Uppal said.
Yesterday’s introduction to the hawker’s adopted home district brought Mr Uppal in touch with local historian Avis Quarrell, who showed him a shell necklace Pooran gave to her mother when she was 17.
“Pooran was a fantastic man who was friends with many,” she said.
Mr Uppal also inspected the hawker’s old horse-drawn wagon, which was donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village by the Moore family.
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