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Himalaya

Day 47: Lekhani

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe whole event is organized by the local recruiting officer, the galla-wallah. He is a local man who will have been given instructions as to how many recruits are needed and scoured the villages to find likely candidates. The most that can be selected today will be 44. The galla is paid a small basic salary and a bounty for every successful recruit.

The Gurkha regiment has to walk a delicate tightrope between offending the Nepali army and provoking the Maoists, so the galla deliberately keeps the procedure informal and unmilitary. There are no weapons or uniforms in evidence. Sporting a baseball cap and a blue and red striped rugby shirt he gives an introductory talk, which, despite general squeaks, laughs and shouts from the local children, meanders on for some 25 minutes. He's followed by the village headman and then Adrian.

Adrian's much shorter speech, in fluent Nepali, is greeted with loud applause. He's garlanded by the local women and then cuts a red ribbon to mark the start of proceedings.

After the young men are registered and their height measured, they have to perform a series of physical tests. The first are heaves up onto a bar (the British Army requirement is six, the Gurkhas demand 12), after which they have to show that they can expand their chests by two inches. According to Adrian, this is a rule of thumb way of anticipating possible tuberculosis problems later on. The disease is prevalent here.

The boys puff their chests out to bursting point, and those who fail the first time are allowed to take strenuous exercise and try again. One of them completes a frenetic routine of 40 or 50 push-ups before leaping up, panting like a racehorse, and rejoining the queue.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 47: Lekhani
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Lekhani
  • Book page no: 106

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