In Manakamna, a town in western Nepal’s Gorkha district, seven brothers will be glued to their television sets on Independence Day. The Thapa brothers have all served in the Indian Army, fighting insurgents, militants and inclement weather.
The Thapa brothers are known as a family of astute hoteliers. Five of the seven brothers own and run seven hotels between them.
However, in the Gorkha regiment of the Indian Army, they have a different identity: they are the seven warriors who fought valiantly to defend Mother India.It’s a family who, for three generations, have left their home in Nepal to join the Indian Army and serve loyally in some of the riskiest Indian states, fighting militants, homegrown insurgents and an inclement nature.
Kaji Babu Thapa, who narrated the saga of his family, was stationed in Ladakh in the 1980s when avalanches swept away 40 of his peers but he survived. In his 32 years in service, honourary Captain Thapa also volunteered for reconnaissance in Bhutan to pinpoint the hideouts of Bodo militants, which were then attacked and demolished by the army. The 57-year-old ace pistol shooter has seen action in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir and survived sniper fire.
The Thapas’ relations with the Indian Army started before World War II when India was under British rule.
His father Gopi Lal Thapa and two uncles, Bishu Prasad and Ram Lal, joined the army and fought in Iran, Iraq, Cyprus and Tunisia.
When India became independent in 1947 and the Gorkha Regiment was split between the British Army and the newly formed Indian Army, Ram Lal decided to stay with the Indian Army. At 86, the war veteran is still a pensioner of the Indian Army. All of Gopi Lal’s seven sons joined the Indian Army without a second thought. “Manakamna in those days was a remote, backward place,” Kaji Babu explained. “There were no business opportunities. All the able-bodied men in the neighbourhood joined the army and we followed them.”
All seven — Kaji Babu, Hom Lal, Indra Lal, Bhakta Lal, Ashoke Lal, Krishna Babu and Ram Babu — are now retired. The oldest, Hom Lal is pushing 70 while the youngest, Hony Subedar Major Ram Babu, is only 49.
On August 15, the seven brothers will stay glued to their television sets throughout the day, watching the celebrations in New Delhi and other parts of India. It is the same on January 26, the Republic Day.
“Since we can’t go to New Delhi or even to Kathmandu (where the Indian Embassy celebrates Independence Day), this is our best option,” said Kaji Babu ruefully. “We follow the Indian news channels religiously to keep up with what’s happening in India.”
The blow hot-blow cold relations between India and Nepal and the waves of anti-Indian sentiment among politicians when ties deteriorate make the Thapa brothers sorrowful.