The first Survival Nepali Language Course (SNLC) of the year assembled in British Gurkhas Pokhara (BGP) on 7th March 2022 for what was to be a fantastic three-month course.
With 18 Officers from across the Brigade of Gurkhas, and two Officers from Singaporean Police Force Gurkha Contingent, the course was the biggest to date, and British Gurkhas Pokhara was full of chadke young Sahebharu keen to get to grips with Nepali language and culture. Unfortunately the language did not prove easy, and the question of “chha”, “ho” or “hunchha” left us scratching our heads. Nonetheless, the lessons were well delivered by Captain Dirgha KC Saheb and his team of Gurujiharu, all of whom managed to withstand our constant barrage of questions about Nepali grammar. Slowly but surely, we found our confidence, and soon enough we were convincingly haggling down taxi drivers and shopkeepers alike.
To supplement the language learning, there were numerous other insights into the life of a Gurkha, which included the infamous Doko run. Assembling on a humid morning at 0500hrs near BGP, the students gave their all to get up 5.8km of hill with a traditional Nepali Doko on their back and head). Lieutenant Will Rutter of the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers left a dust cloud behind him when stormed off straight to the front, coming it an impressive 37:33 seconds.
A highlight of the trip was our visit to the Area Welfare Centres (AWC) around the country, whose function is to provide support to Gurkha veterans and their dependents. Trekking out to the villages and seeing the routine of those who live so far from the cities was eye-opening, and gave us some indication about how different life can be. It was also a fantastic opportunity to learn about some of our Brigade history from those who had made it, and a good way to test our new found Nepali. We were also particularly impressed, if not humbled, by the numerous didiharu we saw, who were carrying dokos double the size of ours, at double the weight and double the age! The AWC trip also included some hands-on experience of Nepali culture, where some of us were put to work in a vegetable shop. It was a great way to get to know some local families, while simultaneously expanding our now considerable vegetable vocabulary.
In our free time, we kept busy exploring Nepal, trekking to Annapurna Base Camp and Mardi Himal and white-water rafting in Lamjung. We were also challenged by the locally employed civilians in BGP to a game of football and cricket. Showing true Nepali spirit, they drew with us on the former and defeated us on the latter, leaving us with our tails between our legs and a newfound respect for them all. However, the first ever SNLC water volleyball team remained undefeated, with a world tour planned in the near future.
The course was been a fantastic experience, with many new memories made and connections formed across the Brigade and beyond. Our language ability has come on in leaps and bounds, as has our understanding of the journey our incredible soldiers make into the British Army. It has made us even prouder to call ourselves Gurkha officers.
By Lieutenant Alan Cousins, The First Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles