WOW | Coffee Break

A BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Neville Sarony
Writer

I was 19 years old and had just joined the 2/7th Gurkha Rifles in Singapore. Instructed to learn Gorkhali – the Army’s version of Nepali – I was given a book entitled ‘English for Gurkha Soldiers’ by J.P. Cross and told to get on and learn the language as quickly as possible. I had a facility for languages, spoke French and German but Nepali was to be my passport to a life in love with Nepal and its people. The more I learned, the more I was allowed to enter into their iconic culture.

After the Army, I returned to London to study law and fell in love with Bimala Dewan who was studying Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital. Bim and I were married in London in 1963. She was the daughter of an officer in 1/7th Gurkhas and I became both bhena and juwain. My memoir ‘Counsel in the Clouds’ is our story, how Bim became Nepal’s first fashion designer and I the first foreign lawyer to work in Nepal.

I lost Bim in 1976 but our 13 dramatic years together and my memories of her instilled the DNA of Nepal into my life. Her spirit lives on in our beautiful and gifted daughter, Tania.
In 1985, I built my dream house in Budhanilkantha, bought Zenith Travels and persuaded DragonAir and Qatar Airways to fly to Kathmandu. In 1998, I swallowed the bitter pill of watching my Nepalese world crashing down around my ears, losing everything in a vicious divorce. But my friends knew that the love did not die with the material things and so I invested in the Jiri hydro-electric plant. Both my published novels, ‘The Dharma Expedient’ and ‘Devlin’s Chakra’ are inspired by the country and its people, especially the Buddhist philosophy. These are rich sources for political thrillers. Following the earthquakes in 2015, I was privileged to become a Trustee of the Nepal Umbrella Foundation which rescues children from trafficking, restoring their dignity and giving them a fresh start in life.

The key to the most meaningful dimension of my life was a little book that was written to enable Gurkha soldiers to gain insight into my language but, in a sort of reverse takeover, I passed through a transformational mirror into a Nepalese life.