The dream of every Nepali boy

One of InterestEng.’s loved tutors, who affectionately goes by the name, Kaz, has not only taught students in Nangi, Nepal via Skype, but actually travelled there last year. While there she met Moti and learned the story of Nepal’s famed Gurkha soldiers. 

Moti

Photo of Moti, courtesy Karen

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BETTER to die than be a coward.”                                                                                               

This is the motto of Nepal’s famed Gurkha soldiers, who are, indeed, incredibly brave and resilient. They have served in the British Army since the Anglo-Nepal war of 1814-1816. I started  to learn about these soldiers from Nepal when I was teaching a group of young students through The School Inside.  These students live in Nangi, Nepal which is not far from the village of Gurkha and lies within the recruitment area.  When I asked my students what they wanted to be when they were older, without fail every boy wanted to be a solider—a Gurkha solider.  

I was curious about the draw of this job.  Joining this regiment brings rich rewards for young Nepali men, who earn four times the average Nepali annual salary once recruited.  They also get the right to settle in the UK with a British Army pension after a certain number of years service.  But first they must pass a gruelling and physically challenging process. It’s one of the toughest of any army in the world and soldiers are selected from many thousands of hopefuls. The economic incentive to compete is very high and it is not unheard of for applicants to continue running on a broken leg.  Although the process is conducted by the British Army, some of the selected will go to the Gurkha contingent of the Singapore Police Force.  

While in Nepal, I had the opportunity to visit the Gurkha Museum in Pokhara.  Exhibits, photos and stories showcase the places these young men have served and there are incredible stories of bravery on all four floors.  It’s definitely worth a visit if you ever have the chance.  

Whilst teaching in Nangi, I had the pleasure of meeting Moti who lives there and is a retired Gurkha solider.  He is the fittest 78-year-old I know.  He is in charge of the tree nursery. It is part of the sustainable forestry programme in Nangi and also grows numerous medicinal plants.  He did his training in Scotland and still has an excellent level of English.  He sought me out when I arrived and we had many interesting conversations. He taught me a lot about the medicinal plants he tends to.  I also met his Gurkha welfare officer, who was a Gurkha solider himself.  He treks through the villages where retired soldiers live. He checks their health and well-being, as well as making sure they receive their pension, which is consider- ably lower if they choose to settle in Nepal.  

I also learned that the Gurkha Welfare Office’s job extends beyond just the well-being of the retired Gurkha.  They also run a programme which sponsors students who can’t afford higher study once school finishes.  They cover all costs and will sponsor students to train in a trade— such as a carpenter, plumber, mechanic, or nurse. 

Nepali people are extremely proud of their Gurkha soldiers. Many houses I visited, and tea- houses I stayed in, had a framed picture of a young man in uniform in a prominent place: a son, brother, nephew or cousin who is serving abroad—or a parent who has settled in the UK after their service. Whenever I asked about the uniformed soldier in the picture frame, the answers were always full of pride. —Karen

EDITOR’S NOTE: During the Trump-Kim summit, it was Gurkha soldiers who were used to secure the site.  In addition, the news broke last summer that women will now be allowed to train for, and try to pass, the grueling test to become Gurkha soldiers.

 ©InterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com