As a boy from a far-flung village in Nepal’s Kaski district, Tim I Gurung never made it to college. He joined his family’s ancestral profession of enlisting in the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas.
During his school days, Tim loved writing poetry, songs, and short stories, and his parents remember he had a way with words. But his family was hardwired to Gurkha recruitment though generations of service, and it was perhaps inevitable that he would also be a solider himself.
Like many of his forebears, Tim’s destiny was to serve and risk his life defending a foreign country through its armed force. Without finishing his schooling, he joined the British Army and served as a rifleman for 13 years.
Although the Brigade of Gurkhas is supposed to have a long and glorious history, it is also tragic. It is hard to imagine that at a time when Nepal’s population was only 5 million, 200,000 Nepalis fought in the trenches of Flander’s Field and in Gallipoli in World War I. One in ten did not return home, leaving Nepal’s villages devoid of young men. Barely 30 years later, 250,000 Gurkhas were once more sent to battle to defend the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, North Africa and Europe. Almost 33,000 were killed in action, others died of disease in Japanese POW camps.
It was out of the question for Tim Gurung to leave the military before completing his tenure, but he managed to get early retirement to start a small business. He struggled to raise his family, and finally settled in Hong Kong, where he was based till the British handover of the colony to China in 1997.
At age 50, he decided he had enough of both the military and manufacturing, and he fell back on his childhood passion for writing. This enthusiasm for the world of words is amply demonstrated by a verse that is pinned on his Twitter wall:
The Gurkhas fought for the British over 200 years,
Yet nobody could defeat them in a fair game,
Now one of their own has arrived with a pen,
And promised to give them a proper name!