A 100-year-old WWII veteran in Nepal tells his story. Photo: Tim I Gurung
A 100-year-old WWII veteran in Nepal tells his story. Photo: Tim I Gurung

I joined the Gurkha army when I was 17-years-old. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t cut out for the army and left the military before I was 30.

For a very long time, I’d doubted the policy of Nepalese people enlisting in a foreign army and wrote an article about the abolition of the practice.

The policy of exporting the Nepalese workforce seems wrong and now five million young people from Nepal work abroad because of job opportunities.

In a recent visit, Tim I Gurung talked with a veteran in mid-west Nepal. Photo: Tim I Gurung

With few job opportunities at home, this trend will continue. It seems pointless to talk about stopping Gurkhas being recruited until this pressing problem at home is solved.

Read: History: Britain, Nepal and some questionable treaties

After doing research in the past two years, my conclusion is that many people, including myself, had misunderstood the Gurkhas. The Gurkhas seldom write their own stories. Even in Nepal, people have only little understanding about the Gurkhas, although there is an impression that the Gurkhas are brave people.

Many think the British had ulterior motives when they introduced the “brave” Gurkhas to the world, which ended up being a very successful propaganda campaign for the British.

Tim I Gurung meets with friends at Mahakali River, in the far west of Nepal. Photo: Tim I Gurung

However, the Gurkhas’ story is about much more than bravery. It’s a story about love, commitment, camaraderie, loyalty, brotherhood, respect, tenacity, adaptability, perseverance and sorrow. Most importantly, it’s a story about sacrifice, responsibility as well as grief and tragedy.

The British were an almost unmatched world power by the early 19th century and they could have overwhelmed Nepal with sheer numbers and advanced weaponry. But they took a friendly approach to Nepal from the start, and for good reason – the Gurkhas.

The Gurkhas had not only saved Nepal on various occasions, but also secured its independence and future. Had it not been for the sacrifices of the Gurkhas, Nepal would have been in a completely different situation today.

A group discussion with veterans in Dodhara-Chandani in the far west of Nepal. Photo: Tim I Gurung

History can be forsaken but not forgotten. The Gurkhas deserve respect for what they have done.

A lack of written history means only one outcome – no proof of contribution, no knowledge of sacrifice and no argument for their rights. The Gurkhas have been neglected and marginalized.

Read: Gurkhas’ latest battle is a fight for equal rights

Sadly, the people who helped save our nation are now mocked as naïve, thick-headed and uneducated and are looked down on by their countrymen. An ungrateful nation has forgotten the sacrifices the Gurkhas made for the country and its people.

Tim I Gurung (left) meets with a widow of a veteran in Dharan, east Nepal. Photo: Tim I Gurung

The Gurkhas are a proud people who have dignity, and honor.

After working on my Gurkha book for the last two years, it is their true identity that stands out – their identity and mine. I am proud and honored to be part of this distinguished community called the Gurkhas. Jai Gurkhas!

Read: Nam Sing Thapa, Nepal’s first Gurkha Olympian

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