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Krishna Mani Baral

Driven by the dream of a better life, Hari Prasad Aryal left his hometown of Waling, Syangja, in October 2023 and flew to Russia. 

The 23-year-old, who had served in the Nepal Army for nearly three years, enlisted himself in the Russian Armed Forces and was soon thrust into the battlefield with the Ukrainian army. Hari lost his life sometime in December last year. 

Until December 8, Hari kept in touch with his family, sharing snippets of his life in the foreign military. However, the prolonged silence raised concerns, and his family, desperate for answers, reached out to his friends. Hari’s middle brother, Raju, told ApEx that they learned about Hari’s death through other Nepali enlistees in the Russian army. The government would confirm his demise only in January.

Hari, the youngest of three sons, had initially joined the Nepal Army after completing his twelfth grade. But fueled by a desire for better financial prospects, he left the army to explore opportunities in foreign security forces. His ambitions unfortunately led to his untimely death.

Hari’s parents Rudra Prasad and Balkumari have been devastated by the loss of a son who harbored dreams of giving his family a better life. 

Despite Rudra Prasad receiving a pension from his previous work in India, it proves insufficient for the family. Hari’s two brothers, Kamal and Raju, sought employment in Dubai for better opportunities. 

Kamal, the eldest, couldn’t attend Hari’s last rites, having returned to Dubai just five months ago. Raju, currently home for Dashain-Tihar celebrations, extended his leave upon hearing the tragic news and plans to return to Dubai in the second week of February.

 “We don’t find good job opportunities here. If our salaries could cover family expenses, none of us would have sought employment abroad,” said Raju.

The Aryal family hails from Mankhu, located just half an hour’s drive from the district headquarters, Waling. Despite owning a small piece of farmland, crop damage caused by monkeys forced them to leave the village, and they now live in a rented apartment in Waling.

“Hari’s dream of building a good house for his parents remains unfulfilled,” said his uncle Buddhi Aryal. 

Rudra Prasad, nearing 80 and grappling with asthma, frequently succumbs to emotional breakdowns as he reminisces about his youngest son.

Despite discussions with authorities to repatriate Hari’s body, the family were informed of the impossibility. So the family performed the last rites without the physical presence of the deceased, using a small dummy made of Kush grass to symbolize Hari’s body. The funeral rites were carried out on the banks of the Kali Gandaki river recently. 

Hari’s social media presence painted a picture of a young man in the Russian military uniform, sharing moments from his life in the military. In a poignant video posted on October 28, Hari can be seen singing a song about the plight of migrant workers, surrounded by fellow Nepalis in Russian military gear. 

His last post on December 4 featured a video of friends heading to the warfront with the caption: “Life is like this, we will meet if we come back, otherwise…” 

Published in The Annapurna Express.

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