Harka Gurung was a renowned scholar and has written and published 15 books and over 700 research articles in various fields, covering geography, development, sociology, economics, anthropology, tourism and mountaineering.
After briefly teaching at SOAS, University of London and Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Harka Gurung was a member of the National Planning Commission in 1968, later becoming its vice-president until he be appointed Minister of State for Tourism.
He was instrumental in promoting tourism and mountaineering in Nepal during his tenure in government, and was part of the committee that gave names to many of Nepal’s unnamed Himalayan peaks. After his death, the government gave his name to a peak of 7,871 m in Manang.
After leaving government, he was director of the Asia-Pacific Development Center in Malaysia and returned to Nepal to continue his research.
In addition to becoming my in-laws, Harka Gurung was a model. He was my guide and my mentor. He advised me in my university life, my second career after 22 years of military service, and introduced me to his range of Nepalese and international contacts.
Once in Kenya he told me to go see his old friend Ian Douglas-Hamilton who ran an elephant research center there. But instead of me going to see him, Douglas-Hamilton picked me up in his private plane and took me on an aerial tour of his Samburu ranch where he owned over 900 elephants.
When I was an intern at the United Nations in New York, Dr Gurung introduced me to Under-Secretary-General Kul Chandra Gautam and Navin Rai, who were then with the World Bank. In the UK in June 2005, he put me in touch with Prof. Surya Subedi and Dr Ramesh Dhungel.
Thanks to him, I got to know Dudley Spain, then 88 years old, who had spent decades at the British Embassy in Kathmandu. When news of the helicopter crash arrived from Nepal, Dudley cried for his friend.
Back in Kathmandu, Dr Gurung took me to attend various university events, which helped me to expand my network. In fact, it was Dr Gurung who introduced me to Ganesh Gurung from the National Institute for Development Studies (NIDS) who helped me with the research for my masters thesis at Coventry University.