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A LION IN WINTER

As hospitals go the Bir Hospital then was the best in the world of Kathmandu Valley. It was a gift from the Government of India, euphemistically built under the "Joint cooperation between His Majesty's Government of Nepal and Government of India", as all receiving nations always like to brag. What was interesting at this point in time was that an old man lay dying there. Both the governments of Nepal and India were gunning for the head of this man thirty years earlier and, as so often happens in history, time is the greatest of healers. Now as he lay dying he was the state's VIP patient looked after by the state by command of the king of Nepal. He had a visitor.


Another interesting facet of this meeting was that the person visiting the old warrior was none other than his former nemesis, another old man who had one time announced a bounty on the former's head, a princely sum of Rs. 50,000.00 dead or alive! The old patient was none other than Dr. Kunwar Inderjit Singh, better known as K. I. Singh, a fiercely independent minded politician, one-time prime minister of Nepal under King Mahendra, and a mastermind of an earlier unsuccessful coup d’etat against King Mahendra's father, King Tribhuvan. The visitor was none other than my father General Kiran SJB Rana, ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Nepalese Army, and the person who firmly stood against the ambitions of Dr. Singh.

The old patient’s eyes lighted up when he saw the general, he knew that it was a singular honor to have the general visit him, they had been friends and foes in life’s vicissitudes, now was the time for the final farewell. He did not have much time remaining. General Kiran stepped forward and held Dr. Singh’s hand on his own, a final gesture that all grievances were forgiven and forgotten.

Dr. Singh had mounted a coup d’etat in protest against the tripartite agreement among the Rana regime, King Tribhuvan and Nepali Congress signed in New Delhi, taking the backing of the disgruntled factions of the Nepal Police Force. He had the king and his cabinet surrounded inside the royal palace with all escape routes cut off. The Indians were itching to have their forces come in to save Nepal from Dr. K. I. Singh, but who would then save Nepal from the Indians? Army Commander-in-Chief General Kiran had successfully persuaded King Tribhuvan not to fall into a trap and the Nepal Army had chased Dr. Singh all the way into Tibet, where he disappeared. That was years back. General Kiran reflected that he had announced the ransom on this old person’s head.

The general remembered that years later after King Tribhuvan died and his son Mahendra ruled Nepal, the new king had once again invited Dr. K. I. Singh to lead the new cabinet as prime minister. General Kiran had already retired from the army but during state occasions he saluted the prime minister. Politics had swung full circle. General Kiran smiled to himself. He wistfully remembered that after Dr. Singh retired from politics he had moved into a small house just outside the general’s mansion Kiran Bhawan. He was a regular visitor and the general had grown fond of Dr. Singh. The general wished the old patient well and came out of the hospital with a lighter heart; he knew that Dr. Singh did not hold anything against his old nemesis and they were both at peace.

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