Turning 100 is not the most surprising thing to happen to Logan Campbell Retirement Village resident Perampalam ‘Muru’ Murugasu this year.
As wonderful as his special birthday celebration was, with family and friends gathering from far and wide to join him on 26th April, Muru was still buzzing from an even bigger surprise just a few weeks before.
Muru is arguably New Zealand’s biggest cricket fan and, knowing this, his granddaughter Mira got to work to see if she could organise a cheeky autograph from his favourite Black Cap, Captain Kane Williamson.
But what actually happened was even better than any of them could have imagined.
At a special event in Auckland city last month, Muru got the surprise of his life when the man himself walked into the room.
Muru didn’t miss the chance to tell him directly how much he admired him.
“What I like is you have given cricket a new character, and you are not just playing the game for winning,” Muru told Kane.
Muru’s daughter Nalayini added that her father was particularly impressed when Kane donated his match fees to the families of the terror attack in Pakistan.
“He said ‘my god, he not only plays cricket, he’s got a heart’,” she told the cricket captain.
Kane thanked Muru for the nice words and presented him with a bat embellished with the signatures of the entire team as a 100th birthday present and the whole thing was captured by TV3’s The Project.
Muru has been a fan of cricket since his school days growing up in Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was known back then.
Muru proudly shows off the signed cricket bat (above) and reading his birthday card from King Charles (below).
He was actually born in British Malaya thanks to his father working as an administrator on the Ipoh railway in Perak State.
He went from private school there to village life and the local village school in Jaffna, swapping shorts and ties for traditional Tamil gear, often going bare chested while he helped his father to look after the well and the goats.
He excelled at school and, after studying history at university in the country’s capital city of Colombo, Muru went on to work as a teacher.
He then got a job with the government which was still under British colonial rule at that time, working right up to the top of the civil service.
Muru also worked for the United Nations, and when travel was involved he would try to catch various cricket tours at the same time, with one particular highlight being Queen’s Park Oval at Port of Spain in the West Indies.
By the 1980s, there was considerable civil unrest in Sri Lanka and Muru’s daughter Nalayini moved to New Zealand, bringing the rest of her family with her.
His son-in-law Gareth is currently helping Muru to write his life story and says his father-in-law has led an amazing life.
Muru took his new country completely to heart, and became a leading member of Sri Saithya Sai, a spiritual and humanitarian international organisation which works to provide relief and improve health and education resources for those in need, and without discrimination.
Muru explained the premise of the organisation: “There is only one religion, the religion of love. There is only one race, which is humanity. There is one language, the language of the heart. And one god, who is omnipresent. Love all, serve all – these are the prime teachings.”
He became deputy chairman of the organisation as well as patron of the Hindu temple in Princes St, Otāhuhu.
With some of the friends he's made at Logan Campbell (above) and (top pic) with Village Manager Rebecca McMillan and Activity and Lifestyle Coordinator Keefe Martinez who made a fuss of Muru on his special day.
In December 2018 he moved into Logan Campbell Retirement Village and has made some wonderful friends and the staff are ‘kind and loving.’
The village team treated Muru to a special birthday cake and celebration at happy hour with Village Manager Rebecca McMillan and some of his friends also joining him for a wonderful lunch earlier in the day at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
As well as enjoying quizzes, exercise classes, bridge and Scrabble, Muru has continued to follow cricket devoutly and these days can be found backing the Black Caps over the Sri Lankans!
Fittingly, the last game he went to was the World Cup in 2015 where he saw Kane Williamson hit a six to beat Australia.
Naturally, at their recent meeting, Kane was keen to get a bit of intel from Muru on the secret to long life.
The answer? “Love,” said Muru.
You can watch Muru's star turn on The Project here.