Nepali Times
Armistice and after

the bounty on Hitler, India's independence, the division of the Gurkha army and later, his involvement in a Gurkha welfare office in Nepal. Bharati Gurung's story is part of the testimony of Gurkha soldiers, translated from the Nepali Lahurey ka Katha by Dev Bahadur Thapa for Nepali Times.

After the armistice it was proclaimed that whoever caught Hitler would be offered crores in reward. A handful of us were selected to capture Hitler. To our consternation, we found out that all German survivors of the war looked like Hitler. A number of them were caught and questioned. They turned out to be fake Hitlers. Later, we found out he had already committed suicide.

Subash Chandra Bose had a different idea from those of Gandhi and Nehru. They preferred a gradual, peaceful approach, Bose was for driving them out. At that moment the Japanese had captured three Gurkha battalions and made them prisoners of war in Singapore. Bose joined hands with some Gurkhas to fight alongside the Japanese. So, Gurkhas were fighting in both the British and the Japanese armies against each other! The Japanese continued fighting in Asia even after the German surrender.

We came back to India on leave as soon as the war in Greece was over. We danced and sang on the ship on the way back since the war had come to a close. Since we had no madal we resorted to beating tins throughout our sea journey. It took three full days and nights to reach Karachi. In those days Pakistan did not exist. It took another three days and nights for us to arrive at Dehradun by train.

We went home on three months' leave, but before that we had to go through a purification ceremony in which we had to gulp cow urine three times a day for seven days and were allowed only one meal a day. We gave a quarter or half a rupee to the priest who gave us cow urine. The Rana regime of the day required people to observe the ceremony. I wasn't yet married. My wife is still here with me.

There were several generations in the army. I have seen a grandfather, father and grandson serving in the same unit. The grandfather was mess sergeant, father a sergeant and grandson was in training. It was now time for the British to leave India and riots erupted between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus started killing Muslims and vice-versa. It was a war of a more difficult nature. Hindus suspected that British were siding with the Muslims and made the British their target. We patrolled the streets with machine guns and grenades. The riots in Bombay were quelled.

Then came the moment of dividing Gurkha troops into British and Indian regiments. Under that arrangement six regiments were to stay with India and the rest four would go with the British. There were two generals-one for the British and the other for India. There were instances when one brother remained with the British whereas the other was in an Indian regiment. I fell in the lot of the British and went to serve in Malaya and Singapore. No sooner did we reach there, war broke out against the bandits. There were huge stocks of weapons abandoned by the Japanese and the British. Even Chinese were adversaries in that guerrilla war.

Life was full of hardship in the jungle. The place was infested with malaria besides wild animals, serpents and scorpions. The war lasted nine years and troops from New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and Britain took part. The Fijians were bigger in size than others, the size of their boots were much bigger. They had rendered much help to Gurkhas, so it was ordered from above to send them a suitable present. What could be the present from Gurkhas other than the khukuri? I had been assigned from the army to present them with a khukuri made of silver. They showed us exceeding respect.

While fighting a few of us made a pact that those who lived would go to the homes of dead comrades and console their family. Harka Bahadur Thapa of Gorkha, Shankar Deb Thapa of Palpa and myself pledged to do that. In the long run, I survived but those two laid down their lives in the Greek war. On my return to Nepal, I visited Harka Bahadur's family home in Gorkha. He was very recently married and had no children. His mother was very old and as soon she heard the news she wept. Later, the village people came and consoled her saying not one but so many people all over the world lost their lives.

Moved, I came up with a proposal to establish a Gurkha welfare office. Some servicemen gave a month's salary . Subsequently a group of army personnel accompanied by top class band toured Singapore, Malaya and Canada to raise funds. The largest amount was collected in Canada. I served for seven years in the welfare office after my retirement from the army. My experience in the welfare program made me face situations where there was no one to collect pensions. In one instance all three brothers were killed in the war. None had married and after the demise of their parents no one was left to collect the money. In another family in Bhirsi in Gorkha, all five brothers were killed: three brothers in the Second World War and two in the jungles of Malaya in 1948.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)