Part of the joy of creating personal work for me as a photographer is that I'm privileged to spend time with people that inspire and challenge me.
I research, think about and marinate in a subject, giving me the opportunity to bear witness to someone, and be changed by our time together.
That was certainly the case meeting Hari. Hari is originally from Nepal and is a Gurkha, part of an elite regiment of soldiers serving the British Army.
The first time I heard about the Gurkha regiment I was 11 years old, in a local gun shop. Whenever I went in to look at scopes and psitols I would also talk to Bill, who worked there. Bill told me once that the reason his face looked different is that he served in the Borneo war and during a fire-fight a bullet ricocheted off his radio and into his cheekbone. His unit called for back-up, and it was the Gurkhas that arrived, going off into the jungle after the enemy and returning later with their severed heads. "The Gurkhas," Bill told me, "make no mistake, are fierce and courageous warriors." That conversation formed an image in my mind of the Gurkhas as noble and daring - they took care of their friends, and also took care of the enemy.
Meeting Hari this image came back to me - I was greeted by a very friendly, bright-eyed, and warm man without pretence. We talked easily with each other about a wide-range of subjects. "How was life growing up in Nepal?" I asked. Hari described life revolving around self-sufficient agriculture and all the hard work that entails. Shopping was done with one yearly journey - by foot, and a week in each direction - to buy salt supplies and kerosene for lamps, which not every family in the village had access to. This kind of lifestyle, one of hard labour and self-sufficiency, makes the Nepalese ideal for soldiering, Hari told me. When it comes time to try-out for the Gurkhas it is almost like a lottery, because the chances of being picked are slim, and the rewards are great. "Did you you train much?" I asked "Maybe two or three times, I was already used to carrying heavy weights up the mountain, I just had to adjust to running fast." Hari said, again with a warm smile. A gruelling selection process almost sounded like fun to hear Hari tell me about it!
As we talk about his formative years I reflect on my own, and how easy it is for us to take things for granted - including the sacrifices our veterans make every day. "Freedom," Hari reminds me, "isn't free. It comes from people working very hard." The reality of these words hit me, and I can feel tears welling up as we both sit there.
Hari lost both of his legs to an improvised explosive device (IED) blast while serving in Afghanistan. The road to recovery isn't easy and Hari is passionate about changing people's minds about what we think is possible. Next years Hari's climbing mount Everest! We watch some footage of his training, including navigating ice, and climbing large vertical rock-faces. The military adage 'Adapt and Overcome' comes racing to mind.
Hari's climb will be raising money for veterans and for schools in Nepal, both of which will make a huge difference to people's lives.
As we talk further we touch upon a mutual interest, the practice of meditation. "We often don't give our minds enough space, and I think meditation is very helpful in that regard" Hari tells me with a warm and ready smile. "It's also about having confidence in what you're doing, knowing you're doing something good, helping others, and having trust in that." These are words I will return to, and I hope serve you too.
Hari is currently seeking corporate sponsorship for his climb, which is being filmed by a great team of film makers. If you are interested in supporting Hari please contact him via: firstname.lastname@example.org
To support our veterans please consider http://pilgrimbandits.org/