Nepal, 1767. The tiny kingdom of Gorkha is on the ascendant under its ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah. Over the next few decades, his Gorkhali army establishes a mighty kingdom, the borders of which extend from Kangra in the west to the Teesta river in the east. The territory encompasses a large part of present-day Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and almost all of present-day Nepal and Sikkim.
When they are eventually reined in by the mighty British army in 1815, it sparks off a new engagement between the imperial power and Nepal. Impressed by the fighting abilities on display, the British army begins recruiting them. The Gurkhas (the prevalent spelling today) go on to serve with distinction in many theatres of war over the next hundred-odd years, their exploits in World War I and II earning them a number of bravery medals.
With Indian independence in 1947 comes further change: the Gurkhas are now split across three armies: the British, Indian and the Nepalese.
Ayo Gorkhali by Tim I. Gurung, a former British Gurkha, is the first work of history by a member of the community and brings alive the story of a people who have served flags other than their own with honour, even as they have attempted to keep their native warrior traditions alive in letter and spirit.
The history of the Gurkha serviceman is one that goes beyond soldiering and bravery—it is in equal measure a story of the resilient human spirit, and of a tiny community that carved for itself a niche in world history.