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Ghurka faces his toughest battle ... in Huddersfield.

Byline: NICK LAVIGUEUR

A GURKHA who served in the British Army around the world now faces his toughest challenge - running a restaurant in a recession

Chitra Gurung opened the Gurkha Thali restaurant in Huddersfield town centre and, like many others, is finding times exceptionally tough

He thought it was hard serving with the British Army for 15 years and during that time he notched up border tours in Hong Kong, Brunei and Belize

But keeping the restaurant - the only Nepalese one in West Yorkshire - afloat, is quite another battle

He enjoyed seeing his comrades' victory last week that saw Ghurkas given the rights to live in the UK - a high profile cause championed by actress Joanna Lumley that led to a dramatic Government U-turn

Chitra, who still wears a badge of the Ghurka fighting knife - the Kukri - on his lapel, launched the Nepalese and Asian-themed restaurant Ghurka Thali on Half Moon Street last August after moving to the town with his wife and two children in May. "We chose Huddersfield because most people are very good people and like Ghurkas,'' he said. "But business is up and down because of the recession crisis so we are struggling now. "We have so many fans who love Ghurkas, but I don't think they know we are here?" Originally when Chitra retired he wasn't allowed to live here so he set up a restaurant in his homeland, Nepal's capital city, Kathmandu

Then, in 2004, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that Ghurkas who retired after 1997 were eligible to settle in the UK

The very next year Chitra got his visa and returned to Nepal to plan his move

After two years of preparation he decided to launch a restaurant as he had plenty of experience in the field

He said: "Nepalese food is growing across the UK. There are about 100 restaurants now, but this is the only one in West Yorkshire. "Nepal is close to India and lots of dishes are very similar, but I think ours are better because our food is healthier. "We use no artificial colours. Once people try our food I think they will like it. "Nepalese food is the best, but business is very up and down and sometimes it's very quiet even on weekends." Chitra still returns home to check on his other restaurant and says he brings authentic Nepalese spices back to use at Ghurka Thali

And he said if he manages to keep the doors of Ghurka Thali open until August he will have a big celebration to jointly mark the restaurant's first anniversary and the British Ghurkas and soldiers who have received military honours

He said: "We're bringing two Ghurkas who have the Victoria Cross (VC) for a big get-together for ex-Ghurkas and ex-British Army. "They live in London and they are almost 90 years old. "We have one British VC here in Huddersfield and he's also 90. "We will bring them here and have a piper and have a big get together for local retired officers and soldiers." Chitra never saw any frontline action as the Falklands War had just ended when he signed up in 1984

He said: "In the Gulf War I was on standby, but the Iraqi soldiers surrendered and we stood down. "The most difficult jobs were the Hong Kong, China, Belize and Guatamala borders. "In my time the tactics were limited war against the Cold War enemy, but now the USSR army has collapsed so all the tactics have changed. "Actually we are trained for jungle warfare because the Ghurkas are good fighters in the jungle against the militias in Brunei or Belize." Chitra earned several medals including the Hong Kong Service Medal, Cold War Medal and the

Border Duty Medal

He also did UN border duty in South Korea - that medal is on its way

Last year five Ghurkas got the Military Cross for their work in Afghanistan and Chitra said he was thankful to the British public for supporting the recent move to let all former Ghurkas settle in the UK. "We still have lots of issues with equality,'' he said. "When I retired my pension was pounds 25 a month. "But the settlement visa is great to all Ghurkas. I don't think all of them will come here, but the schooling is better than in Nepal so this announcement is very good for children who want to study here." He added: "My grandfather and my father were Ghurkas so I followed my generation's profession. "Now my profession is different." Ghurka Thali Nepalese and Asian restaurant is open seven days a week, noon to 2pm and from 5.30pm to 11pm

It has a website - www.gurkhathali.com

Gurkhas factfile Gurkha veterans won the right to settle in the UK last week after a campaign led by the actress Joanna Lumley (left)

Previously they were excluded if they retired before 1997

The Gurkhas have been part of the British Army for nearly 200 years

Originally enemies of the

British East India Company army, their impressive fighting in the Gurkha War led the British to not only make Nepal a protectorate, but to allow them to fight as mercenaries ( now soldiers) for their own Army 13 Gurkhas have been awarded the Victoria Cross

More than 45,000 Gurkhas have died defending British interests, with a further 150,000 injured in the line of duty

Although a popular urban legend states that a Gurkha "never sheaths his blade without first drawing blood", the kukri is most commonly employed as a multi-use utility tool, rather like a machete

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NEW FIGHT: Former Gurkha soldier Chitra Gurung pictured at his restaurant Gurkha Thali, Half Moon Street, Huddersfield.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 27, 2009
Words:949
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