This is a story of two families and two cultures - Māori and Sikh.

Joined by a young couple's love, torn apart by tragedy and brought back together by shared grief.

On Friday, more than 30 people converged on a small state house in Rotorua to cement that reunion.

At the centre of a melee of turbans and te reo was the young Maori woman who recently moved into the house, Saraiah Waerea.

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Dressed in a hot pink sari, the 25-year-old cradled her eight-months pregnant belly with one arm as she greeted the guests, smiling through her sadness.

With the other arm, she held against herself the red urn containing the ashes of her baby's father, Parminder Singh Jabbal.

Known as Perry, Jabbal came to New Zealand from India to study healthcare in Tauranga.

Parminder Jabbal and Saraiah Waerea visiting Mount Maunganui. Picture supplied
Parminder Jabbal and Saraiah Waerea visiting Mount Maunganui. Picture supplied

He had found work and been living in New Zealand for three years - half of that time spent with Waerea - when he was killed in an early morning collision between his car a truck on State Highway 36 on July 11.

The cause of the crash was still under investigation.

In the weeks that followed, there was a tense standoff between his family in India, who wanted his body flown home to receive traditional funeral rights, and Waerea, who wanted him cremated in New Zealand so she could be sure of having part of him for their son.

There was fear on both sides, amplified by grief and mistrust.

Enter Sidhu Singh. The Auckland businessman and Sikh community leader knew neither family but, with only a day to go before a decision had to be made, was asked to step in.

Sidhu Singh and Saraiah Waerea at the ceremony in her home in Rotorua. Photo/Andrew Warner
Sidhu Singh and Saraiah Waerea at the ceremony in her home in Rotorua. Photo/Andrew Warner

He came to Rotorua and, with local police and members of both families around the table, brokered an agreement.

Waerea made the tough choice to allow Jabbal to be flown home to his family who could give him a funeral and have him cremated.

Jabbal's ashes were then be brought back his adopted country for Waerea and their son.

Singh also led a fundraiser that raised more than $17,000 to cover the $14,000 cost of transporting Jabbal's remains to India, with the remainder to go towards looking after Waerea and her baby.

In the little house on Friday, Singh told those gathered - members of the Sikh community in Auckland and Rotorua, Waerea's family and friends, Rotorua police - that it was a situation he had never come across in 31 years in New Zealand.

He credited Waerea for the courage she showed in letting Jabbal go to his family.

Both Singh and a relative of Waerea's family, Bishop Ngarahu Katene, offered prayers and blessings.

But when Waerea was handed envelope of cash donations, she became overwhelmed. Burying her tearful face in her hands, she had to be convinced to take it.

There was more to come: a Mitsubishi hatchback - hers to own and drive, once she has passed her learner license - and a van load of furnishings for her home: beds, couches, linen, cookware and more.

All were donations from the Indian and wider community.

There was even help for her mother and those siblings who were present, who stood dumbfounded as Singh gave them each $100, asking them to spend it well.

Saraiah Waerea, 25, with the urn containing the ashes of Parminder Singh Jabbal, father of her unborn son. Photo/Andrew Warner
Saraiah Waerea, 25, with the urn containing the ashes of Parminder Singh Jabbal, father of her unborn son. Photo/Andrew Warner

The gathering marked a crossroads for Waerea.

For most of her life she has been in trouble of one sort or another - with her family, school, the police, courts, gangs.

Then in January 2017, she met Jabbal on Facebook.

He was motivated and kind. He took her and her brothers on outings, helped babysit and pay off her debts and even gave her mum, Huriana Waerea, savings advice.

"He was the best son-in-law I ever had. I have seen my daughter change her life around after 24 years," Huriana said.

Jabbal cried when Waerea told him she was pregnant. The pair were planning a life together when he died.

At first, Waerea was directionless. Her compass was gone. She did not even have a place to live.

But slowly things came together. Her family rallied and she was speaking to Jabbal's family online almost every day, even helping make arrangements for his mum to visit.

She had forged a friendship with Singh and Rotorua police had also offered their support.

Waerea said she had come to a decision to keep turning her life around and do her best to give their baby, to be named Parminder Junior, the life they had planned.

"I'm doing something right for the first time in my life."