Gorkhatimes

A Gorkha weblog which intends to keeps you updated about everything and bring together all Gorkhali community

New UK life for Gurkha veteran

Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 8, 2009

Padam Bahadur Gurung is one of them.
He was last in the UK in 1984, when his four years serving at a base in Hampshire came to an end.
“I get to see people I haven’t seen in a long time,” says the 58-year-old, as a gentle laugh fills his face.
The parts of the UK he has visited so far feel familiar, but one big change is that things have become more expensive.
“I spent £15 calling my wife. It is easy to spend money, too easy,” he laments.
The savings he brought over from Nepal are his sole financial support; he admits he needs to find a job “as soon as possible”.
After a decade and a half in the British Army, Padam went home to Nepal but was unemployed for much of the last decade.
But with the new rules on settlement in place, he applied for a visa to return to a country he had not seen for a quarter of a century.

BBC Report By Michael Buchanan

Padam Gurung has left his wife and three sons behind in Nepal

Padam Gurung has left his wife and three sons behind in Nepal

Officials from the British embassy in Nepal are opening an office in the capital, Kathmandu, to help Gurkhas and their families who are thinking of moving to the UK.

But what is the reality for a former soldier who leaves his home, half-way across the world?

Padam Bahadur Gurung is one of them.

He was last in the UK in 1984, when his four years serving at a base in Hampshire came to an end.

“I get to see people I haven’t seen in a long time,” says the 58-year-old, as a gentle laugh fills his face.

The parts of the UK he has visited so far feel familiar, but one big change is that things have become more expensive.

Actress Joanna Lumley led the Gurkhas' campaign

Actress Joanna Lumley led the Gurkhas' campaign

“I spent £15 calling my wife. It is easy to spend money, too easy,” he laments.

The savings he brought over from Nepal are his sole financial support; he admits he needs to find a job “as soon as possible”.

After a decade and a half in the British Army, Padam went home to Nepal but was unemployed for much of the last decade.

But with the new rules on settlement in place, he applied for a visa to return to a country he had not seen for a quarter of a century.

So far more than 1,350 former Gurkhas have been granted permission to come to Britain since the law changed in May 2009.

The policy reversal was the culmination of a high-profile campaign led by actress Joanna Lumley.

The delapidated former Gurkha barracks at Church Crookham

The delapidated former Gurkha barracks at Church Crookham

The new guidance means that former Gurkhas, who had retired before 1997 with at least four years’ service, are now allowed to settle in Britain.

Since arriving in England in mid-September, leaving behind his wife and three sons, Padam Gurung has had a busy time.

He spent the first few days living with his brother in London, then celebrated the traditional Nepalese festival of Dashain, before visiting his nephew in Aldershot.

He had not been back to the former Ghurkha base at Church Crookham in Hampshire for 25 years, and on his return he encountered a dilapidated collection of wooden huts and outbuildings.

But the sentry station where he stood for hour upon hour is still there, as is the hut in which he once slept.

His memories are happy ones.

“At that time it was very nice, our hut was very warm,” he reminisces. “Every day we got served British food – soup, meat and potatoes, and pudding.”

Former Ghurkhas receive pensions of £178 per month from the British army. The Ministry of Defence says that over the course of a retirement, Gurkha soldiers receive the same amount of pension as their British counterparts.

But Padam says his is not enough to live on in Nepal, so he has come to Britain to earn more.

His wife and one of his sons are currently applying for visas to join him.

Asked if he would have left his homeland if he had been receiving a bigger pension, his answer is clear: “Ghurkhas do not want to come to Britain if they are living in Nepal.

“We are pushing towards 60 years old, this is meant to be a time of our lives when we rest. So if I got a bigger pension, I would not have needed to travel.”

For the moment, though, having travelled the 4,000 miles to find work in Britain, Padam is attempting to better himself.

A number of his relatives, already based in the UK, work at Heathrow airport.

Padam will soon start a course which he hopes could lead to him also getting a job as a security guard there.

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