Indian Army veteran fights toughest battle in Nepal

August 14th, 2011 - 3:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 14 (IANS) As India readies to celebrate its 65th Independence Day Monday, the battle however is far from being over for an Indian Army veteran, who is now engaged in his toughest fight in Nepal - of clearing the school leaving examination.

“I fought the India-Pakistan war in 1971; but that’s not half as difficult as this one,” says Ashbahadur Gurung, a 66-year-old Nepali from Parsa district in southern Nepal who had served with the Indian Army for 19 years.

The battle that Gurung is engaged in has claimed tens of thousands of casualties. The school leaving examination is dubbed Nepal’s “Iron Gate” due to the high rate of failures every year. This year, 122,505 students failed to make the cut.

Despite his nearly two decades in the Indian Army, Gurung, who joined the forces by putting his fingerprints on the recruitment form, says he could not rise higher than the rank of a lance naik because of his lack of education.

So after retiring from the army, the war vet is determined to wage this last battle.

However, it’s been a tough war. This year, the grandfather with nine grandchildren sat for the exam but flunked in two subjects - English and Mathematics, the common nemesis of most students in Nepal.

Last week, when supplementary examinations were held in these two subjects, the white-haired student took them again from the Kanya Secondary School in Birgunj city.

“I can’t see too well these days,” the determined ex-soldier told a local daily. “So this time I have enlisted a Class VIII student to write on my behalf.”

While he fought to keep India’s sovereignty intact for 19 years, the former soldier’s battle to maintain his own dignity started three years ago when he took admission in school.

The first day in school was a memorable experience - both for him and the other students.

When the white-haired grandfather strode into the eighth graders’ classroom, where he had been given admission, the students promptly wished him a respectful “Good morning”, thinking him to be the teacher.

However, when he sat among them, opened his satchel and started taking out his exercise books, the flabbergasted students started looking at one another in amazement.

But Gurung says he won back their respect with his tales of his life in the army and now, they call him “guruji”.

It was this - and the endurance training he learnt in the Indian Army - that has given him the heart to continue the battle.

“I was sad to learn that I had failed in two subjects,” he says. “But I am trying again.”

Gurung has five children but only one of them, his eldest daughter Ruth, has passed the School Leaving Examination, the Nagarik daily said.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be reached at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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