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Tributes paid to ‘kind and gentle’ founding member of Ilford Hindu temple who died aged 80

PUBLISHED: 11:01 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 09 January 2019

Kharati Sharma, 80, was among the founding members of the Ilford VHP centre, in Cleveland Road, Ilford. Photo: Sanjiv Sharma

Kharati Sharma, 80, was among the founding members of the Ilford VHP centre, in Cleveland Road, Ilford. Photo: Sanjiv Sharma

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A founding member of an Ilford Hindu temple who shared his love of scriptures with everyone from hospital patients to prisoners has died.

A founding member of an Ilford Hindu temple who shared his love of scriptures with everyone from hospital patients to prisoners has died.

The borough’s Hindu community is in shock after Kharaiti Lal Sharma died of a heart attack at the age of 80 on Wednesday, January 2.

He was among those who founded Cleveland Road’s Ilford VHP temple, in the site of former Christian church, in the 1960s and he went on to serve as its vice chairman and chairman.

His death comes a year after that of his wife Jyoti, aged 75, and they leave behind three daughters - Sarita, 52; Anita, 51; and Manju 46 – and 49-year-old son Sanjiv.

“He was culturally very strong, very kind and very gentle,” Sanjiv told the Recorder.

“He was not officially a priest but he was very intellectual and knew Sanskrit.”

He came to the UK in the mid-1960s from the city of Karnal, in the north Indian state of Haryana, and settled in Windsor Road, Ilford.

Before coming to the UK, Kharaiti taught English and history in India.

After working initially in the post office, he became a civil servant in the government’s tax department until he retired at 65.

Sanjiv spoke of how his dad would represent his faith at events across the country, giving talks on the meaning behind religious festivals.

He said his dad also had an extensive knowledge of Indian classical music – playing the harmonium and the tabla drums – and would perform regularly at weddings, baptisms and other events.

“He never charged any body - he always did it for free,” he said.

His daughter-in-law Shona told the Recorder that Kharaiti was also “an awesome cook and had a really dry British sense of humour.”

“He could cook as well as my mum,” she joked.

She praised his makki di roti – a Punjabi bread made from corn meal – which “would instantly warm you up if you were cold”.

In a letter of condolence, the Hindu centre’s secretary Ravi Sharma said: “He was one of the very few learned persons who had vast knowledge of Hindu Vedic scriptures as well as Hindu social customs and traditions.”

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