“You wanted me to make your last event a big thing,” Rasan Gujral told his dad Surjit Gujral at his funeral in Sydney on 28 April.
“Are you happy now?”
Some 500 people turned out to farewell Sydney’s best-known Indian restaurateur on 28 April 2022. From the North Chapel of the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, they spilled on to a second and then a third chapel, listening in via video feed.
Among those who attended were friends and family, fellow restaurateurs, those from the cricketing fraternity, and anyone who’s anyone in Sydney’s Indian community.
Speakers recalled happy times and significant moments from their time with Surjit – at his restaurants, at a variety of cricketing experiences, or at his many music concerts.
Hartley Anderson, Australian former cricketer and a close friend, shared memories from the various events in his own family that were all organised by Surjit. The Anderson and Gujral families formed a close bond over the years, having first met nearly 40 years ago.
“Surjit loved his family. ‘They’re all I have’, he would say,” Anderson recalled.
Aussie cricketer and commentator Lisa Sthalekar choked up as she paid her own tribute, to a man who became family when she did not know anyone else in the community. “With Surjit and Rasan, I knew I would always have a home here,” she said.
She also recalled how Surjit always obliged when she called in to pull favours for friends, such as the Indian women’s cricket team only recently, when they wanted an Indian meal at 11.30pm.
She also read out a tribute by former Australian captain Steve Waugh, a friend and great fan of Surjit’s food.
The cricket world in Sydney & those who passed through were always welcomed by Surjit & his family. His sense of humour & warm generosity will be missed 🕉Shanti https://t.co/adpNQhpFPe
— Lisa Sthalekar (@sthalekar93) April 21, 2022
Amar, Surjit’s older brother currently in India, recounted the journey of how he trained his “baby brother” in the industry, in which he blossomed so well and developed his own particular identity.
Rasan for his turn spoke of how Surjit mentored him to develop his own identity in the same industry, by having him work at McDonalds. He recalled how his dad would chuckle as he himself struggled to mop the floors.
“He told others of how proud he was of me, but never said that to me,” he said in a tribute that saw him become quite distraught at times.
Manjit, the Gujral family’s equally well-known personality, referred to Surjit as his ‘friend more than brother’, who never saw each other as competitors. “We would disagree frequently of course, and declare we would not talk to each other again, but our distance would not last more than seven days.”
Perhaps the most poignant tribute came from Benny Sebi, Surjit’s closest friend. He recalled the joint birthday parties and the music, and the love of cricket and of art and of travel. He also spoke of the love of food and the late night dinners, and how after one such all-night bender, Surjit found himself in trouble.
More than one speaker mentioned that he was not perfect, but his fine qualities of generosity, magnanimity, warmth, acceptance, friendship, and an inexplicable capacity to connect with others, more than made up.
Surjit’s constant support and nurturing of his own staff was also brought up.
This very publication owes him an equal great debt of gratitude – one of the earliest and longest of supporters, not only as an advertiser but also in his advocacy.
Surjit passed away on 20 April 2022 while on a brief visit to Melbourne. He is survived by his son Rasan, daughter-in-law Raini, and grandsons Manbir and Dilraj.
The rest of Sydney will continue to have Surjit as they have had these past 40 years: in his restaurants and in his food. “The name will continue,” Rasan vowed in front of all of his dad’s friends and supporters.