By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
His love for Nepal is incredible. A man, who is a British by birth, but at heart he is more a Nepali. He has spent most of his lifetime among the Nepalese and when he was in the armed force, he stood along with the Gurkhas and fought the Second World War. After the retirement, he chose to live among the Gurkhas and for that, he even renounced the natural citizenship of his country Great Britain.
He lives at Naya Gaon, Pokhara with his adopted son Buddhiman Gurung Dhampu. His peaceful residence is hardly 5-6 km away from Mahendrapool. The local Pokhareli people fondly call him Gorkha Baje. He is 93-year old young man. Yes, a young man! If you meet him only then will you understand why he should be called a young man at 93. He is physically active and mentally alert.
His memory at this age is simply unbelievable. He can tell you every single incidence of his life with precision. In brief, he is the man of statistics. Want to know who he is! He is none other than retired Lt. Colonel John Phillip Cross or JP Cross. After a long and agonizing wait, finally the Nepali government granted him Nepali citizenship on 15 November 2014.
“I left Britain for 73 years now. Long ago, I had applied for the Nepali citizenship; but after 32 years long wait, finally the government of Nepal granted me Nepali citizenship. During these years when I was living without a Nepali citizenship, I was still a Nepali at heart. During my struggle to get Nepali citizenship, I was even asked bribe to make citizenship immediately but I refused. Because I knew I deserved a Nepali citizenship and why not? I am more a Nepali at heart than a British by birth. Today I feel proud to be a Nepali,” said Lt. Colonel JP Cross in his impeccable Nepali.
JP Cross lived and worked with the Nepali people for the last 72 years. He has always been a great admirer of Nepali art, culture and literature. His love for Nepali language took him to Tribhuvan University where he studied Nepali literature and finally obtained a Master’s degree in Nepali literature in 1981. JP Cross is also a voracious reader and a prolific writer. He has authored about 17 books. Most of the books he has written are about military warfare and Nepal. His books are famous for in-depth analysis, simplicity and erudition.
JP Cross was born in 1925 in London, England. At the age of 17, JP Cross joined the British Army on 2 April 1943. Due to Second World War, it was then compulsory to undergo military service for every youth in England. JP Cross was posted to Dehradoon, India to join the 1st Battalion of the 1st Gurkha Rifle. After a tedious sea journey, he took to train and then bus to reach Dehradoon. In Dehradoon he was among the brave soldiers of 1st Gurkha Rifle.
“It was my first experience to meet Gurkhas in Dehradoon. I found Gurkhas honest, loyal and extremely brave. I was very much impressed with the Gurkhas. One more quality I did observe of Gurkhas. They were very simple and always ready to accept a friendly hand extended towards them. In addition, the Gurkhas were the backbone of the British Indian army,” disclosed Lt. Colonel Cross.
During the Second World War, JP Cross and his platoon was sent to Burma and Malaya. JP Cross spent nearly 20 years in Malaya and Borneo region. Then Borneo was under the control of the Japanese. Later allied forces especially American and Australian soldiers launched an offensive against the Japanese and defeated them. However, the Second World War was over, but there were still some pocket resistance in Borneo. The 1st Gurkha Rifle was actively involved to neutralize the insurgents and brought peace and harmony in the country. It was extremely tough time for the Gurkha soldiers in Malaya and Borneo.
“Our platoon fought hard against the local insurgents and defeated them. During that time, Gurkhas and I always fought together against the insurgents. While fighting against the insurgents, I saw how fearless the Gurkhas were. These people know no fear. I am convinced about the Gurkhas that they are the born warriors. I am glad to have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Gurkhas and fought the Second World War,” praised JP Cross.
After serving in the army for 39 years, JP Cross got retirement at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He was living in London but his heart was with the Gurkhas. In 1947, Shree 3 Padma Shamsher Rana invited Lt. Colonel JP Cross to Nepal. He immediately accepted the invitation and came to Nepal.
After having seen pristine natural beauty of Nepal, JP Cross had decided to make Nepal his home. “I was already impressed with the brave Gurkhas but when I saw amazing stock of natural beauty of Nepal, I was stunned. I then decided to make Nepal my new home for the rest of my life,” added JP Cross.
Even after the retirement, he refused to spend a retired life as many soldiers actually do. He was very eager to see Nepal by his eyes. Therefore, he walked on his foot across the 65 districts of Nepal. “I wanted to see a real Nepal, because a real Nepal lives in the villages. That is why I had decided to walk on foot to villages.
By the time, I did stop my journey I had already walked over 16,000km and traveled 65 districts out of 75. While traveling I had opportunities to see and learn many things including Nepal’s terrain and geography. I did also meet with many soldiers who were in my platoon; some of them were recruited by me as well. When I was Gurkha recruiting officer in Pokhara, I had recruited 2148 young Gurkha boys for the British Gurkha regiments,” said JP Cross.
JP Cross is a lifelong bachelor. He never married in his life. It is the matter of curiosity for many people to know exactly why JP Cross did not marry and chose to live a bachelor. Upon this, JP Cross bursted into laughter and said: “This is the question perhaps many people have asked me before. Actually, I am not against marriage.
If I am not married, it does not mean that I do propagate the philosophy of celibacy. I think it was not in my fate to get married because about four or five times I was almost got married; but every time something unexpected happened and the marriage was either postponed or cancelled. Later, I thought a life could also be lived without marriage and rest is the history”.
JP Cross is also engaged in various social and humanitarian activities. He is a well-known philanthropist in Pokhara. He has provided financial aid to schools in Kaski and Lamjung. JP Cross stood in the front and helped the people of the Eastern Nepal with relief materials, when acute famine had crippled their lives in 2008. He did also help earthquake victims of Lamjung, Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk.
JP Cross has assisted to promote local sporting events especially girls volleyball tournament. He has also built some quarters for the elderly people at the Pokhara Old Age Home at Sita Paila, Pokhara. Without doubt, JP Cross does love Nepal very much but it is also true that Nepali people in general and Pokhareli people in particular love him even more. Long live, JP Cross.
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