Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This Post Is Not About Sarah Palin

Nor is it about Dick Cheney having urged George Bush to illegally deploy American troops to the suburbs of Buffalo to apprehend a group of terror suspects. Or another short-lived Talbin ceasefire in Afghanistan. Or the sucky reviews that Cadillac's new crossover SUV is deservedly getting.

Indeed, the weight of the world seems a little heavier than usual this week, or maybe it's just the temperature-humidity index hereabouts, so we're going to take you to an airport in Katmandu in the tiny Himalayan state of Nepal where actress Joanna Lumley was mobbed over the weekend with goddess-like adulation and cries of "Ayo Gurkhali!," but not for her beyond ditzy co-starring role as the drunken, man-eating Patsy in the Britcom "Absolutely Fabulous."

The hero's welcome, which included an audience with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, was because of Lumley's efforts to force the British government to reverse a policy of two centuries standing and allow Gurkha veterans of its army who retired before 1997 to settle in Britain. Her father had served as an officer in a Gurkha regiment in World War II and had inspired her campaign.

Several hundred Gurkha veterans and their families turned out at the airport where Lumley was given traditional silk scarves and garlands of marigolds. The mob scene
was so intense that it took the actress about 15 minutes to walk 30 yards or so to her waiting car.

Field Marshal Sam Maknekshaw once famously said about Gurkhas: "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurka," and their feats of bravery in the Indian and British armies are legendary. Incidentally, "Ayo Gurkhali!" is a battle cry meaning "The Gurkhas are coming!"

Top photograph by Narendra Shrestha/EPA

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