Harka Gurung was a renowned scholar and wrote and published 15 books and over 700 research articles in various fields, covering geography, development, sociology, economy, anthropology, tourism and mountaineering.
After teaching briefly at SOAS of the University of London and Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Harka Gurung served as a member of the National Planning Commission in 1968, later becoming its vice-chair until he was appointed state minister for tourism.
He was instrumental in promoting tourism and mountaineering in Nepal during his tenure in government, and was in the committee that gave names to many of Nepal’s unnamed Himalayan peaks. After his death, the government named a 7,871m peak in Manang after him.
After leaving the government, he served as director of the Asia-Pacific Development Centre in Malaysia and returned to Nepal to continue his scholarly pursuits.
Besides becoming my in-law, Harka Gurung was a role model. He was my guiding light and mentor. He advised me in my academic life, my second career after 22 years of military service, and introduced me to his array of Nepali and international contacts.
Once, in Kenya he told me to go and see his old friend Ian Douglas-Hamilton who ran an elephant research centre there. But instead of me going to see him, Douglas-Hamilton came to collect me in his private plane, and took me on an aerial tour of his Samburu ranch where he owned over 900 elephants.
When I was an intern at the United Nations in New York, Dr Gurung introduced me to Assistant Secretary General Kul Chandra Gautam and Navin Rai, then working at the Word Bank. In the UK in June 2005, he put me in touch with Prof Surya Subedi and Dr Ramesh Dhungel.
Through him, I got to know Dudley Spain, then 88, who had spent decades with the British Embassy in Kathmandu. When news came from Nepal of the helicopter crash, Dudley wept for his friend.
Back in Kathmandu Dr Gurung took me along to attend various academic events, which helped me expand my network. In fact, it was Dr Gurung who introduced me to Ganesh Gurung of the National Institute of Development Studies (NIDS) who helped with research for my masters level dissertation at Coventry University.