Remember to always be friendly to a Gurkha

Gurkha soldiers displaying their persuasive kukris.

Gurkha soldiers displaying their persuasive kukris.

I learnt of the Gurkhas well before I got to know Chicken Saab–of previous blog–through my father’s stories about them from when he was posted as an army dentist to Hong Kong during the ’70s.

He became and has remained a staunch fan of Gurkha soldiers and their homeland of Nepal, and round the family home are sketches of Nepalese life and people. There’s also a couple of kukri knives–the Gurkhas’ famous close combat weapon–dotted around the house.

A ferocious blade lay beneath the scabbard as well as a small notch just above the handle, which I’ve always remembered being told served to let the blood drip off the blade and not get on the hand of the kukri wielder so that a good grip could be maintained.

Gurkha soldiers were a constant feature during my time in the army. I remember one occasion when it was like an optical illusion: there were dozens of them dressed immaculately and identically in green blazers and khaki trousers and they all appeared around 5 ft 2 inches in height.

Despite their reputation for being extremely tough fighters, they always proved very friendly and polite. Like all soldiers they had a rambunctious side, and in Germany they also had a reputation for being avid visitors of the brothels–not that surprising considering many of them remained thousands of miles away from their families in Nepal for as long as two years and counting.

I imagine that if you ever go on a Zambian safari with Chicken Saab it’s likely you might see a kukri at some point, though for a much more benign reason than it’s original design.