FROM THE FRONTLINE

‘Gurkha’ is possibly the first autobiography written by a serving Gurkha soldier. We have heard many stories about Gurkhas, mostly about their courage, their loyalty and their discipline of WWI & II and from India-Pakistan and India – China wars. I am sure we don’t know much about their exploits beyond our shores. This book gives you an in-depth insight into the life of the Gurkhas both in War and Peace.

Sergeant Kailash Limbu, a section leader aged only 24 has told his own story:”Better to Die Than Live a Coward”. In this book, Limbu recalls the inside story of combat details of the thirty-one days siege of Now Zad post, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2006. The narration of operational combat is excellent, with second by second details which look impossible for any human memory and it appears it is based on audio or inbuilt voice recordings.

The author’s story telling skill about his background life in his remote hill village Khebang-Taplejung in Nepal and detailed recruitment procedures with the rigorous recruit training schedule to be a ‘GURKHA’ in between the combat breaks, is an excellent unique interesting flashback methodology adopted. I have not come across such detailed narrations in my readings so far. While reading between the lines or the hidden meaning of the book’s title, ‘Gurkha’ really means to be a ‘Gurkha’ soldier of the British Royal Gurkhas.

Sergeant Kailash Limbu tells the story of how a few men of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, fought the Taliban in Afghanistan. Being a ‘GURKHA’ myself, I felt I was part of those operations by his side, listening to the story. The stories sent me back into my own memory lane of short swift encounters as a Company Commander of the ‘Bahadur’ Company in Sri Lanka and the Srinagar Valley. It reminded me of the sounds of the shells and bullets on the night spent on top of the of the Jaffna library in Sri Lanka. Supply of troops and casualty evacuation by helicopters as well as close air support through helicopter gunships was always at their beck and call. Communications appear to be superb from the lowest level to the Officer Commanding (OC), and then on to correctly guide the close air support on pin-point targets close to their positions inspite of grave safety risks.

Overall, the book is an excellent narration of section level combat, leadership and communication skills of a section commander. Sgt Kailash Limbu has proved to be an excellent soldier, leader and an author. The books script, in my view, appears to have been backed up by excellent officers who are well versant with the history and traditions of the Gurkhas. It is the camaraderie of the Gurkhas, that is key to their success.“We as officers and men have a lot of respect for each other and we have unflinching loyalty for the battalion and the regiment”.

It is a book that must read by young officers joining the Gorkha Regiment, and especially by those proceeding on regimental treks of their recruitment areas. Read this book ‘GURKHA,’ and travel with Kailash Limbu into and out of the Combat Zones thrilling operational combat journey and flash backs to the village life in Nepal. It is strongly recommended that each chapter need to be translated and read verbatim for promotion exams in the Gorkha battalions in particular so as to motivate them to know their responsibilities like Kailash Limbu the ‘GURKHA’.

Col RC Patial, SM, FRGS, PhD has served with the NSCS as a Senior Defence Specialist, with the NTRO as a Chief Editor of Open Source Intelligence and the first DD of the newly set up Training Academy. He is presently, Principal, Meritorious Residential School, Amritsar.

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