When seven Nepal brothers served the India Army

When seven Nepal brothers served the India Army

The Thapa brothers are known as a family of astute hoteliers. Five of the seven brothers own and run seven hotels between them.

However, in the Gorkha regiment of the Indian Army, they have a different identity: they are the seven warriors who fought valiantly to defend Mother India.

It's an amazing family who, for three generations, have left their home in Nepal to join the Indian Army and serve loyally in some of the riskiest Indian states, fighting against militants, homegrown insurgents and an inclement nature.

Kaji Babu Thapa, who narrated the saga of his family, was stationed in Ladakh in the 1980s when avalanches swept away 40 of his peers but he survived.

"Twenty-six members of the Charlie Company were swept away and 14 from the Bravo Company," he reminisced. "It took us eight months to recover the bodies."

In his 32 years in service, honorary Captain Thapa also volunteered for reconnaissance in Bhutan to pinpoint the hideouts of Bodo militants, which were then attacked and demolished by the army.

The 57-year-old ace pistol shooter has seen action in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir and survived sniper fire.

The Thapas' relations with the Indian Army started before World War II when India was under British rule.

His father Gopi Lal Thapa and two uncles, Bishu Prasad and Ram Lal, joined the army and fought in Iran, Iraq, Cyprus and Tunisia.

When India became independent in 1947 and the Gorkha Regiment was split between the British Army and the newly formed Indian Army, Ram Lal, who was still in the army, decided to stay with the Indian Army.

At 86, the war veteran is still alive and a pensioner of the Indian Army.

All of Gopi Lal's seven sons joined the Indian Army without a second thought.

"Manakamna in those days was a remote, backward place," Kaji Babu explained. "There were no business opportunities. All the able-bodied men in the neighbourhood joined the army and we followed them."

All seven - Kaji Babu, Hom Lal, Indra Lal, Bhakta Lal, Ashoke Lal, Krishna Babu and Ram Babu - are now retired. The oldest, Hom Lal is pushing 70 while the youngest, Hony Subedar Major Ram Babu, is only 49.

Barring the third brother, honorary Captain Bhakta Lal, who has opted to lead a retired life and the one after him, Ashoke Lal, who is now a farmer, the remaining five brothers have chosen to become hoteliers with the same uniformity that they joined the Indian Army.

Ashoke Lal's son Anjan Thapa is a third-generation soldier, now serving with the Indian Army.

While Kaji Babu's son, a high school student, is too young to decide if he wants to join the Indian Army, the second of his four daughters wanted to be an army doctor.
However, her hopes received a blow when she tried to get an MBBS seat through the scholarships offered by the Indian government in Nepal but could not make the cut despite two generations' loyalty.

Now the disappointed young girl is exploring options to see if she can join the Indian Army in any other capacity.

On Aug 15, the seven brothers will stay glued to their television sets throughout the day, watching the celebrations in New Delhi and other parts of India. 

It is the same Jan 26, the Indian Republic Day.

"Since we can't go to the Red Fort in New Delhi or even to Kathmandu (where the Indian Embassy celebrates Independence Day), this is our best option," said Kaji Babu ruefully. "We follow the Indian news channels religiously to keep up with what's happening in India."

The blow hot-blow cold relations between India and Nepal and the waves of anti-Indian sentiment among politicians when ties deteriorate make the Thapa brothers sorrowful.
"These are the affairs of the bigwigs," Kaji Babu said, distancing himself.  "Though I was born in Nepal I spent my working life in India and such things make me very, very sad."  

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