In 1828, baby Leo was born in the rich Tolstoy family in Russia. He grew up to write two of the
greatest books in the history of literature. He also inspired a social reform which made a great impact
on the world.
Tolstoy was an unsettled young man. He left university as he found his studies useless. Later he
joined the army but could not stand violence so he gave up the military too. He decided to take up
writing as a career and soon became quite successful. When he published his two famous novels, War
and Peace and Anna Karenina, they were called masterpieces. In them, Tolstoy offered a new special
kind of writing. He described events and characters in such a convincing and realistic way that they
blurred the line between imaginary and real life. In Tolstoy's novels, it was not great world rulers that
moved history, but common people. His work has been called "not art, but a piece of real life."
After publishing Anna Karenina, instead of enjoying its success, Tolstoy had a mid-life crisis. He
kept on repeating that he would kill himself if he did not find the meaning of life again. He gave up his
family fortune to live a simple life in the countryside among peasants. There Tolstoy found the peace of
mind turning to God and Christian faith. He began propagating universal love and passive resistance to
evil. Many years later Mahatma Gandhi adopted his message in his campaign to free India. The black
people’s leader in America, Martin Luther King, did the same in his fight against racial discrimination.
The effects of passive resistance are still felt today. Tolstoy was a gifted writer, but it was his
revolutionary ideas that changed the world.
The Gurkhas, well-known soldiers in the British army, come from the Himalayan country,
Nepal. It is a rugged and inhospitable region with hard living conditions. They have made the young
Nepalese very tough and strong, which causes that the British willingly recruit them into their army.
An average Gurkha is small and broad-chested with an average height of 5'4". Before his recruitment,
he works hard in the fields and raises cattle in his village. He is usually illiterate and unfamiliar with
the modern life. To him, service in the Gurkha Regiment means a higher standard of living, a chance to
travel and a prestigious career. That’s why many young Nepalese men dream of becoming Gurkha soldiers.
However, the selection process is challenging. At the recruiting centre in Nepal, retired Gurkha
officers select only the most suitable candidates. The first recruitment stage is the medical check-up. At
this stage, many youths may discover for the first time that they have some abnormalities, like a
punctured ear drum or a certain disease. A slight difference in their chest measurements and weight
can disqualify them as candidates for Gurkha soldiers. For instance, one Nepalese youth ate eight
bananas and drank two liters of water before being weighed. He passed the weight test but finally was
rejected because he did not meet the minimum chest width requirement. The next stage after the
medical examination is a series of tests which check candidates’ physical fitness and mental abilities.
Many Nepalese men try to go through the selection process but very few succeed.
Only the best Nepalese youths go on special training. In hard conditions they train the most
challenging fighting scenarios to become those famous Gurkhas, who later fight bravely in the British
Army’s battles. However, it is not their training or excellent combat skills that have made the Gurkhas
legendary. It is their determination to defeat the enemy at all costs. It is better to die than surrender,
their motto reads.
One episode in World War I shows it perfectly. At Givenchy, France, a team of Gurkha troops
had to cut the enemy's wire obstacle and create a gap for the attacking force. While crawling to the
wires, the Gurkhas were spotted and fired on by the Germans. The first two were killed. So, another
pair moved forward to replace them. They were killed too. The Gurkhas did not stop until the wires
were cut. Gurkhas troops also fought in the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina. It was
reported that the enemy in some locations there surrendered without a fight. The very presence of the
fearsome Gurkhas in the battlefield made them feel frightened of any confrontation.