In the UK, many people have been infected with COVID-19 and the UK Government announced lockdown measures on March 23rd.
Service personnel were not allowed to leave camp without a genuine reason. Married service personnel had to stay out of camp to prevent the virus entering. Gymnasiums were closed because the equipment’s in the gym were used by all and there was a high chance of spreading the disease. Social distancing was applied. We were only allowed to go out of camp once a day for physical fitness. Lessons were conducted remotely via Skype and Zoom. In the meantime, new innovative ideas were thought of, such as Exercise COVID SAANJH, a COVID-19 friendly way to enjoy music, maintain morale and have fun!
The New Year is celebrated by the Nepalese people all over the world is also known as Navavarsha, based on Nepal’s lunar calendar called Nepal Sambat. The first day of the Nepal Sambat usually falls around the 11th to the 15th of April. In the UK, Gurkhas celebrate the Nepali New Year by organising a big event where all of them gather followed by dance and music performances. However, due to lockdown we organised a small musical event, Exercise COVID SAANJH. This took place on 13th April, its aim to de-stress and comfort during the pandemic. This in turn is a reminder of the benefits of teamwork, taking the initiative and leadership for the members of The First Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR) which will contribute to operational effectiveness, fighting spirit and personal development.
The preparation phase consisted of gathering musical instruments and we were lucky that all of our households had talented musicians within them. I, Mahesh Rai and Subash Gurung took on the vocals and guitars while Uday Gaha picked up the bass guitar, Mahendra Thapa on a Madal and James Gurung on a Cajon. We discussed among ourselves and soon learnt relevant songs. For a song to be perfect all of us had to synchronise the tune together as one. Every evening prior to the event we gathered and began practising the songs. The preparation phase also included the selection of event location. Due to COVID-19, social distancing was necessary, so we marked out the room following the rules laid out by the government and 1 RGR.
On the 10th of April Friday, we retrieved the speakers, microphones, mixers and cables from the signal stores. In the evening, we set up and tested the sound systems to make sure that necessary precautions are taken for noise minimisation and for that with the help of our B company muglish members we sent our boys to different spots to find out if the volume levels were ok. On 13th April Monday it was time for our performance. We started our event where I gave a short speech which included safety points, the purpose of the musical event and a wish of a happy Nepali New Year 2077 to all the people who were watching.
Everyone watched from their windows due to COVID-19 measures. Our opening song was ‘Mero Nepal’ of Mongolian Heart band whose singer is Raju Lama. This song is about Nepal, and is a very famous song. Our platoon in Catterick performed this for our platoon commander, and the memory stuck with me. It was cold that day, so our fingers were starting to slow down but the support rallied us, and we kept on going. We performed a total of seven songs in one hour, it went smoothly. Our last song was ‘Birr Gorkhali’ from Mantra Band. ‘Birr Gorkhali’ song is another famous song from Nepal which celebrates the identification of the Self as a Gurkha. They liked the song so much that we had to sing it twice.
We were able to accomplish the aim of Exercise COVID SANJH. Whilst performing we noticed that small things matter, and if you can make someone happy that is the greatest achievement. Every Little Helps! Finally, we thanked the audience for their time and again wished them a Happy New Year and finished the event.
By Rifleman Prakash Gurung, The First Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles