It seems like Nepal has faded quickly from our thoughts.
More than 5,000 have died and one million children are in urgent need of help following a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit on April 25, 2015. That was followed by dozens of aftershocks and tremors registering more than 4 on the Richter Scale.
The earthquake’s epicentre was in Gorkha, the district from where Gurkhas historically come.
Many people from many countries have contributed to Singapore’s success over the years. Perhaps the most colourful, charismatic community—albeit publicly stoic and reserved—is the Gurkhas.
I was lucky enough as a boy to hang out with them in Mount Vernon. I remember eating devilishly hot onion chilli “salsas”, sometimes with sukuti, tough buffalo meat, then marvelling at them cooking goat curry in a giant wok, using spade as spatula, above a wooden fire sitting in a freshly dug cavity.
But why does Singapore need Gurkhas for our highest-security tasks?
According to our first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew:
“When I returned to Oxley Road [Lee’s residence], Gurkha policemen (recruited by the British from Nepal) were posted as sentries. To have either Chinese policemen shooting Malays or Malay policemen shooting Chinese would have caused widespread repercussions. The Gurkhas, on the other hand, were neutral, besides having a reputation for total discipline and loyalty.”
Two other anecdotes, told to me on Mount Vernon, possibly exaggerations, went something like this.
First, the difference between Gurkhas and the local police is that the Gurkhas, if faced with that cruel choice, will shoot down their family, even wife and kids, in defence of their master. Locals won’t.
Second, like great martial artists, Gurkhas exercise incredible control over their strength and skills, preferring to defuse situations in non-violent ways. Apparently Singapore informed the Gurkhas that if they ever got into a brawl in public, our judicial system would regard their hands as “deadly weapons”.
Of course, the Gurkhas represent just some of the many Nepalis in Singapore. And of course, we should help the Nepalis like we would any other human in their position—simply because we can.
Still, it is a good time to reflect on the Gurkhas in Singapore and elsewhere. Singaporeans who want to help can give to the Singapore Red Cross or one of the many other organisations doing work there.
For those who prefer to support smaller organisations, please click here for one that is vouched for by Zakaria Zainal, Singaporean photographer who has spent much time there.
Note: This post was first published on Mothership.sg
Top photo via