Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Till now, the 128 containers rested on bookshelves at a Karachi library and were looked after by library guard Murad Baksh. The oldest has waited 35 years and the newest one is from 2002. The Hindu community in Karachi is very small. Their dead are cremated, but the families couldn't travel to Haridwar to immerse the ashes to complete the rituals as they were denied visas. "We got to know about this from a Hindi newspaper," says Vijay Sharma, general secretary of the Devouthan Seva Samiti. The article carried a photograph from which they got the name, 'Hindu Cremation Ground Association, Karachi'. "We also found out that the chief administrator of the association, Ram Nath Mishra, is also the mahant (head priest) of the Panch Mukhi Hanuman Mandir in Karachi," says Sharma. Samiti head, Anil Narendra, wrote to Mishra in August, 2008, suggesting that they get together and do something.
Letters were written to the high commissions in both countries, and even to the prime minister. Much correspondence later, the samiti finally heard in January, over two years after they first initiated contact. A group of 14 was granted visa for 45 days to bring the ashes. A 10-member delegation from the Karachi temple and four others from the families of the dead are accompanying the containers. They started from Karachi on January 18 after a round of prayers and arrived in Lahore the next day. The Gurudwara management committee of Lahore received them, and in the evening, felicitated the group with 'surupa bhet' before seeing them off.
In Delhi, they'll be staying at the Kalkaji Temple till the priests and pandits decide on an auspicious day to start for Haridwar so that the dead attain moksha (salvation) immediately. Sharma also promises much fanfare on the way. They will stay again at the Kalkaji Temple after their return.