Accompanied by the former cricketer, Kapil Dev, the family of Pooran Singh, who died at Warrnambool in Victoria more than six decades ago, finally collected his ashes at a ceremony on Sunday, to fulfil his last wish that his ashes be immersed in the Ganga.
Kapil Dev, who will leave for India with the ashes on Monday, said he was honoured to come here on behalf of Pooran Singh's family.
Kapil Dev travelled to Warrnambool, having been moved by the story of a funeral home retaining the ashes of the childless hawker hoping that his relatives would claim it one day.
Hundreds of Sikhs from Melbourne joined many others at the cemetery to witness the ceremony of handing over the ashes to Kapil Dev and Pooran Singh's great nephew Harmel Uppal, 47, a father of two who works in the clothing industry in the U.K.
The ashes will be taken to Pooran Singh's Bilga village in Punjab and then to Haridwar for being immersed in the Ganga.
"It's an amazing story, and has moved my heart. I was touched by the Australian people...they have a soft heart ....there is a very human touch here, and I am very grateful to people here," Kapil Dev said.
"This is definitely different from anything I have ever done in my life. It's one of the best, emotional stories with a happy ending," he said. "This is the bridge between the people to say you can love each other."
In 1899, Pooran Singh, aged 30, left his family at Bilga and sailed to Australia, where he hawked goods from his horse-drawn wagon, travelling from one country town to another.
He was cremated in June 1947 after his relatives in India were informed of his death by telegram. Ever since, his ashes were kept safe by Guyett's Funerals, a family funeral company, at Warrnambool.
Uppal, who came to know about the story through the media in the U.K., said: "It's hard to explain the emotions." "It's fantastic being here. so significant to our family. I think this will be the start of many visits by Indian people here."
"I first heard about him was when I was five or six, and I remember being told that he moved to Australia when he was young," Uppal said. "A few months ago, family members told us there was a lot of media interest in the village, and later we learnt about the story of the great-uncle and his ashes. It was because of his savings he sent to India the rest of his family lifted itself out of poverty."
As for the spate of attacks on Indian students Australia, Kapil Dev underscored the need not to "blow it up." "Bad things can take place in every part of the world, so whatever has happened in Australia in the past, let's not blow it up." He saw a role for the media in spreading the positive stories to bridge the gap between the two nations after the attacks on Indian students in Victoria.
"If I can bridge [the gap between] the two countries and improve the relationship, I will feel very happy," he said.
Uppal also underlined the need to bridge the differences and spread harmony among the people. "Despite our differences, we are all one today." "The world is as big or small as we can make it. This story is a testament to that."