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Himalaya

Day 47: Lekhani

Lekhani, Nepal 
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The fan club watches. There’s little more prestigious for country girls than a marriage to a Ghurkha.
Michael Palin - HimalayaHe scrapes through the two-inch test next time, but his chances of being among the final 44 are still slim and, even if he gets through, this is only the first phase of the process. Successful applicants here go for a gruelling Hill Selection later in the year and only the best of those will go through to Central Selection in Pokhara after that. Some five months from now, the 24,000 original applicants will be reduced to a lucky 230, who will then leave Nepal for induction training in Singapore or at Catterick in North Yorkshire.

'It's a big culture shock,' Adrian admits, before adding, a trifle ruefully, 'But the army's a culture shock anyway.'

The rewards are substantial. As a serving soldier, the Gurkha gets the same pay as a British soldier, around £1000 a month. By comparison, a captain in the Royal Nepal Army is paid around £100 a month. On retirement many Gurkhas come back to Nepal and make
a good living in the tourist business, buying hotels and guesthouses.

Adrian brushes off any suggestion that there might be local resentment at having these elite fighters poached by a foreign power. Adding up pensions, welfare schemes, direct expenditure, as well as the return of money earned abroad, he reckons the Gurkhas are worth £68 million a year to the Nepali economy.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 47: Lekhani
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Lekhani
  • Book page no: 107

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