Col. John P. Cross interviewed in Pokhara, Nepal, by Alan Macfarlane, 16th April 1991
0:07:12 Birth, early childhood and education; Time in the Gurkhas as a soldier; In Pakistan at independence; Recollections of first meeting Gurkhas when joining regiment - their looks, size, communal spirit etc.; Difficulties of language of Gurkhas; Gurkhas as tractable people, innate qualities; country people who have to work together without selfishness, community spirit cheerful acceptance of what is needed; Sense of humour of Gurkhas, slapstick; Degree of equality or inequality among Gurkhas; acceptance of orders;
Q: How competitive are Gurkhas?
A: Physique and physical strength of the Gurkhas; recruitment of the cream of the cream, as recruiting officer. Weak arms.; Relations with their families, wives and children; men, women and children, husband as dominant; Love their children, no nastiness or taking for granted
10:45:07 First visit to Nepal, February 1947; absence of roads, the 126th visitor to the valley since 1793; Three or four most notable changes in the Pokhara valley during the last forty years; Change of values; influence of India; degrading of honesty, becoming a nation of thieves and liars; Larger, bigger physically than before, taller; Opened up with roads, aircraft, television, video, radio - a sense of bemusement, blurred the responsibilities; Influx of tourists traipsing around, in new clothes, giving a false impression of western peoples; harder to get to know hill people deeply; Able to see inside the Nepalese person or character result of increased linguistic ability, and love them very much; Directness and honesty declining as result of Indian influence Brahmin and Aryan influence on hill people; government influence; Aryan administrators less honest and direct than hill peoples; bribes needed; people bend before them, bend gracefully
18:14:20 Q: What is your experience of aid and development projects?
A: Despite all
20:00:04 Q:What made you decide to live in
and other circumstances, lose eyesight, met Buddiman;
Love; any difference in closeness or degree of involvement of the hill peoples
24:05:09 Experience when you go into a hill village - impressions of it; compactness of dwellings, warmth and response of the people; hospitality; tact of people and thoughtfulness; remarkable intimacy; Deep involvement in a house after ritual of absorption into a Gurung household; intimacy; How much time spent in villages around Pokhara Walked ten thousand miles in this country
28:30:03 Q: Do the hill peoples feel deeply towards children, infants and each other?
A: Everything is directed to maintaining family stability and security. love and concern for the children, caring deeply, for a stable family and clan concern; This contrasts with Brahmin families relationship of husband-wife, father and son etc. is very different, much more subservience of wife etc. Gurung women are much better accepted as full members of the society; Are the Gurkhas or Gurungs aggressive? Being good soldiers; are they violent people? Opposite of love is apathy; myth of aggression inculcated by British officers. Bravery of the few subsumed of the many. Not fearless; fearful of the fear of fear. Only fierce when too much drink, and anger. "A Gurkhas anger never happens, but when it does, it is unable to be measured."; Seen any acts of wanton cruelty in your travels? No, I have heard of thoughtlessness, but not cruelty for its own sake.
35:09:10 Q: How would you described the religious system of the hill peoples? How far are they Hindus?
A: Muslims, Christianity, Animism is increasing. Cultural Hinduism, Hindu priests; Have you ever attended any hill funerals? The treatment of death through ritual; impressed by Gurung rituals, sending of spirits in correct method. Importance of performing the correct funeral rituals.
Is there a growing ecological crisis in
A: Yes, a huge
degradation - examples. Vast amount of de-forestation, staggering
amount. Erosion, the soil washed down to the Bay of Bengal and
44:12;05 Q: Any change in tradition of Gurkhas after retirement?
A: Used to return to villages and build houses there. Now? A great draw now to Kathmandu, Pokhara and the Terai towns. They have a taste of running water and electricity - so why should they return? The key to success these days is thought to be to get education but the water of the wells of Nepalese education poisoned from Bihar; How Bihar and West Bengal have poisoned Nepal, in particular badly affecting the education system; disorder in Calcutta, influence of anti-west Communism, spread to Nepal; Patna influence such a lot of negative, anti-western thinking; A time-warp in Nepal, still thinking along ancient anti-western, pro-Communist lines; raw Marxism-Leninism seen as an answer to all problems; In North Vietnam; problems with anti-communism etc; the double standard of Brahmins, low standard of ethical knowledge
51:01:22 Q: What are your views of the educational system and the expansion of the schools?
A: Used to visit schools, experiences of attempts to give funds to these schools; education looked on as a key to future enhancement; but quality of teaching very low, and the syllabus very old fashioned; poverty of school buildings - all produced a system that does not answer the problems attempt to re-organize education in 1975, keep children in the villages; So little imagination in the educational system in the schools; in the extra-mural activities, book-keeping and typewriting taught, where animal husbandry far more useful; Controversy of teaching medium; English or Nepali in teaching in the schools; growth of private schools, 'Boarding' schools; Present educational system built around the Indian system; the intermediate level at Campus leads to disaffection. the new government will need to re-vamp the educational system which has been seen as a failure by the Nepalese; Girls studying and staying at school rather than marry too young to a person they do not like.
Have you noticed any changes in health care and medicine in
1:01:57:12 Q: What are the influences in administration and bureaucracy?
A: Influence of Brahmins; over-staffed offices, inability to take decisions of any importance; fear of superiors; blistering inefficiency; fitting to the Hindu calendar; time a western impediment; administration grinds inefficiently and so slowly that leads to waste; An example of administrative incompetence and arrogance - if a hill person, "Come Tomorrow"; bribes needed
1:04:29:08 The current political situation; difficulties of switch from autocracy to democracy, no tradition of decisions, whole concept of free vote is foreign; multi-party system came too late; personal good before the country's good; negative aspects of a personal monarchy, bribery etc; The four perks of a Brahmin; money, salvation - no matter what he does, elite thought; whole concept of multi-party democracy where each man and woman's vote gives him or her an intrinsic level of sameness is foreign; how long does it take from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy? These last three fruitless decades of wasted opportunity.
1:10:40:10 Personal connection, patronage, 'aphno manche'; essential to know people; to work against the family is the worst thing you can do; to change needs three generations or something traumatic; Patronage, who you know, importance of means more than anything else in this country, except, at times, when money is concerned; I have never been asked for a bribe because English are not in habit of giving them; I know very many people, every bus I travel on has someone I know on it; to know a person is very important; Three or four difficult things in this country - the first is to buy land; to marry someone with whom you can live the rest of your life; the right connection - "someone who stands at the door"; to make a person know what is needed once that person's feelings have been hurt.
1:14:20:22 Q: How many languages do you speak?
A: Nine Asian languages. Also written a number of books. What is your greatest achievement? Recruited 2149 troops; distinguished military career. Absorbed into a Gurung family (camera swings to Buddiman with his son); If you had to single out one or two things for which you would like to be best remembered, what would they be? The proudest thing is the total acceptance at the highest level to be worthy to be a Nepalese citizen, among some of the world's nicest people, almost miraculous - the status I have has never happened before. Eccentric enough to be regarded as having an inner strength, that many others do not have. A charmed life of miraculous proportions.