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His Highness Field Marshall Kaiser Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana. The name and the title bespoke the subject well, despite his diminutive physique his stature was indeed colossal. His name was spelt in English like that of German royalty, he was the son of Maharaja Chandra Shumsher who ruled Nepal for 28 years, his first wife was a royal princess the eldest sister of King Tribhuvan, his second a renowned beauty, he was an immensely wealthy and erudite aristocrat, his private collection of books is a major library in Nepal today, in short Shakespeare might have written of such a person, “His life was gentle, and the elements so mix'd in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, this was a man!”

What does such a man owe anyone else in life’s bounty? The story begins with the end of the Rana oligarchy. As the second man in the regime after the last Rana prime minister Maharajah Mohan Shumsher, Field Marshall Kaiser was the Commander-in-Chief of the Nepalese army when power was handed over to King Tribhuvan and the Nepali Congress Party at the New Delhi conference. India did not want a bloody revolution in Nepal and the compromise reached promised a peaceful transition to democracy within a time frame of six months. King Tribhuvan made a triumphal entry into Nepal as the sovereign, Congress Party was rewarded with all the plum portfolios in the cabinet, Mohan Shumsher was the transitional prime minister and Field Marshall Kaiser, the transitional commander of the army.

The new army was formed by the king with a junior Rana general at the time elevated to the post of deputy commander-in-chief of the army. In fact the story goes he was ranked 34th in the Rana hierarchy as a C Rana and the king retired all his seniors to make him ready for the ultimate post. General Kiran Shumsher Rana was the deputy to Field Marshall Kaiser during the transition period. It was this bond between the older man and the youth that time tested.

After the transition period Rana oligarchy that lasted a total of 104 years became history. King Tribhuvan and the political parties ruled Nepal for some period until the death of the king. His oldest son became the new king of Nepal in 1955. King Mahendra’s ascension to the throne made world headlines as insular Nepal opened itself to the outside. The Royal Coronation was celebrated in a befitting manner in 1956. Commander-in-Chief General Kiran was the vice president of the Coronation Committee and he was in charge of the minutiae of the ceremonies. It was also the year he would retire.

After the successful completion of the coronation the cabinet of Prime Minister Tanka Prashad Acharya recommended to the king that General Kiran be made Field Marshall of the Nepalese Army, a life-long honorarium for the retiring army chief. King Mahendra was grateful to the general for giving continuity to the important institution at a crucial phase in history. “Kiran, I am happy that the cabinet has recommended your name for the honour of Field Marshall”, the king privately told the retiring chief." A happy retiree will always ensure a smooth transition. Having been made the Commander-in-Chief at the age of 35, General Kiran was only 40 years of age now, in his own mind it was certainly not the time to retire. And also there was the question of his elder cousin General Kaiser under whom he had served as a deputy during the six months transition period. “Your Majesty”, replied General Kiran, “among the old Ranas it is only General Kaiser who has remained in Nepal to serve Your Majesty and it is under him that I served as the deputy army chief, it is but right that he should be rewarded with the honor of Field Marshall on the occasion of the coronation. I am still young and will serve the nation in other fields.” The king was happy to hear this as indeed General Kiran would serve the nation in many areas given his qualities. But it was also a sacrifice on the part of the general due to an unspoken bond in the noble tradition of the military. Did Field Marshall Kaiser ever know that he owed this high honor to the loyalty and sacrifice of his one-time deputy?


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