SPLENDID ISOLATION I was born in Dhampus, in Gandaki zone, Nepal. Almost all the families in my village were the descendents of one old couple, their bloodline expanding over three to four generations. It was a society still completely untouched by the outside world, and life was humdrum. Agriculture was the main activity; we used to grow rice, corn, malt, soya beans, potato, peas, taro and spices. The village had always been self-reliant, and we worked throughout the year with almost no break. Only boys were allowed to attend the one middle school in the village. For high school, we had to walk for more than an hour and then an hour back.
BORN TO FIGHT Nepal still has a feudal caste system; your profession in life is mostly determined by the family you are born into. Born a Gurung - like 95 per cent of the people where I lived - I was meant to be a Gurkha (a Nepalese soldier, many of whom have served with the British army) by birth. Our village was such that each and every young man had just one dream: to follow in the footsteps of our fathers and brothers and become a Gurkha. There wasn't a single family that had no one serving in the Gurkha brigade. I became a Gurkha soldier at 17, in 1980. After the completion of my recruit training in Shek Kong, in Hong Kong, I was transferred to the 6th Gurkha Rifles, based in Fanling. I got to visit a few more countries during my active service. Our main tasks were to protect borderlines, guard important people and places, and keep ourselves mentally and physically fit. We also used to practise crowd controlling, although we never had to use it in reality. It was a tough, regimented and hard life; we were mostly confined to the camp and hardly had time to assimilate with the outside world. After six years, I started to doubt my choice of profession.
DEMOB HAPPY Leading up to the 1997 handover, the British garrison was trimming down its force; it was not able to take all the Gurkhas back to the UK and two thirds of the garrison were made redundant. I was one of them; I voluntarily retired in 1993, after 13 years of service, and have never regretted it. I went back to Nepal with my family - my wife, Tina Laxmi Gurung (she is Nepalese; it was an arranged marriage), my daughter, Smriti Gurung, who now lives in Berlin, and my son, Prabhat Gurung - but soon returned to Hong Kong. I found a job in quality control with an international company that worked in China. I visited Chinese furniture factories on a regular basis. China was just opening up and everything was new and interesting.
Life at the beginning was harsh. People had a stereotype of Gurkhas - that we were made of metal - but my income was not high, I had to live in a poor neighbourhood and the streets were mean. Furthermore, I wasn't good at Cantonese and the police used to look down on us. Discrimination was rife. I had to work twice as hard as the locals to get any recognition. After working at the company for seven and a half years, I decided to take the plunge and become my own boss. I spent the next 15 years working hard at my own business, manufacturing furniture in China, and raising my family. My son now runs the firm. As the saying goes, the rest is the history.
THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE KUKRI After I turned 50 last year, I really wanted to do something special. I didn't know what but I decided I never wanted to work for money again. I used to write when I was young but totally stopped while I was running the business and raising my family. It didn't take long for me to rekindle my passion. Although I have spent all of my adult life in Hong Kong, I have never forgotten my roots. I have always wanted to do something for my country. I have decided to donate the proceeds from my books to the charity I founded, the Isslcare Foundation, which helps poor families in Nepal send their children to school. I have got eight schools in Nepal involved and we are sponsoring 25 students.
WORDS COME EASY Since last year, I have published six novels. The first one deals with issues such as the American occupancy in Okinawa, Japan; the endangered chiru (the Tibetan antelope that has been almost wiped out by illegal poaching); and the Kashmir issue, which has kept India and Pakistan at war. The other books have covered issues such as altruism, migration and discrimination, the afterlife (but not in a religious way), political corruption and the world's pressing refugee problem. I have sold almost 500 books, in print and ebook format. I am planning to publish two more books in 2015: my seventh book, about Hong Kong, is ready to be published soon. I would like to write and publish at least two books on a yearly basis.
I am a writer of conscience and righteousness. I write for the people, society and humanity, and, most importantly, I write for my happiness.
Tim I Gurung will be at the Hong Kong Book Fair until Tuesday, at stand 1C-A35. For details, visit www.timigurung.com