The Travelling Trooper Makes A Khukuri

Phone or no phone, the adventure must go on. I awoke the next morning to a loving message from my hair.

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Today was going to be a good day.

In fact, today wasn’t just any ordinary day. Today, we had a date with a knife maker! Not just any knife, though. We were making a khukuri, which is the traditional knife used by the Nepalese Gurkha soldiers as both a weapon and a tool. This would be the second knife that I’ve ever “helped” to make. The first one was in Laos a year and a half ago.

When I say that I helped to make the knife, though, that’s being very generous. The guy told me where to hammer, and I hammered. Then he undid all of my mistakes and made it look pretty.

I was curious to see how the two knife-making processes would compare.

There were some similarities:

  1. It was just me, another tourist, and our guide. (Except Bruce isn’t as pretty as the lovely Jen.)

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2. The knife-making tradition was passed on to our knife maker. The guy in Laos was a third-generation knife-maker; he learned from his father, who learned from his father. Indra, on the other hand, learned from his uncle. Both men, though, hoped that their children would aspire to something more than knife-maker.

3. The knife-making magic happens in the home. The guy in Laos literally did it on his doorstep, while Indra works just out back behind his house.

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Welcome to Indra’s office. This is where all the magic happens.

4. Both men spoke very little English. Thankfully, both times, our guides did a great job of translating. Indra, though, was much more social. He was just as eager to learn about us as we were to learn about him. He loved to learn about the world from customers who come from countries all over the world.

It was awesome to be able to visit Indra in his home. (Indra, by the way, translates as King of Heaven, which is almost as badass as Uriel, the Angel of Light/Fire.) We were able to see him interact with his loving children and see, firsthand, how Indra is benefitting from his involvement with Backstreet Academy. After just two years with the company, he has been able to upgrade his equipment, and is now in the midst of completely renovating his home. Plus, his son spoke an impressive amount of English thanks to the education Indra is able to afford him now.

Indra was a very happy and smiley kind of guy. He genuinely seemed to enjoy his job. Correction: He genuinely seemed to enjoy life. He had that kind of gleeful glow to him that makes you wonder what his secret could possibly be. And whenever he would ask about, say, the cost of living in Canada or Australia (Bruce’s home country), he would laugh at our seemingly ridiculous answers. It was downright contagious.

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Every time Indra set to a new task in the knife-making process, he would joyfully explain what he was doing to our guide, and then the guide would translate for us. It was very clear that he was a perfectionist. Every strike of the hammer hit precisely where it needed to; every stroke of the knife on the wooden handle carved the perfect shape; every second of sanding, grinding, buffing, was correct to the mili-second. It was so cool to watch the transformation from this:

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to this:

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The whole process took just over four hours for the two knives.

First, Indra heated the large piece of metal in kiln, pulled it out, and hammered away with a wedge to cut it down to knife size, trimming piece by piece until it was at an appropriate size and shape. Heat, hammer, repeat.

Using this same method, he then formed the shape of the part of the blade that would go into the handle.

Then he hammered away on the blade side to flatten it out and make sure the blade was straight. Heat, hammer, repeat.

Bruce and I were able to help out with these steps, and not much more.

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Bruce and I did about 15 seconds worth of grinding, and that was enough for us. I was just happy to walk away with all my fingers intact.

Then things got complicated, with the grinding, buffing, etc. But it was cool, though; we were watching a master at work. It was hypnotic.

 

 

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Hammering the little marks on the blade.

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The daily grind. Get it?
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Do you get it? Because it’s his job…and he’s grinding the knife…do you get it now?
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Making the handle pretty.
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Still working on the handle.
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In order to make the blade stick inside the handle, Indra melts a piece of a rubber bucket, and then shoves the melted plastic into the handle with the knife end. Once it hardens, it works as an effective glue. The handle end actually ends up sticking out of the back end of the handle, and so he manages to sand it off and put a smooth seal on the end to cover it.
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Putting the finishing touches on it to make it shine.
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I decided to call my blade Indra. I can’t wait to introduce Indra to Hattori Hanzo back home.
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Bruce, Indra, myself, and Indra’s little boy.

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In the end, when he was done with my khukuri, Indra actually put the knife and the buffalo horn sheath down and took a picture of them. The man was proud of his work. As he should be.

Upon arriving back at the hotel, I dropped off my stuff and headed back out the door to go find a place to eat. It seemed both myself and my neighbour two doors down had the same idea. She quickly introduced herself as Simone from Australia (my second new Aussie friend of the day!) and we headed out in search of a place called New Orleans that my tour guide had recommended.

On the way there, we just so happened to run into Pieter and Natalie. They had just finished eating and were on their way back to their hotel. We hung around chatting for a good twenty minutes or so, and then went our separate ways.

New Orleans turned out to be a great recommendation. I had probably the best $5 steak I’ll ever have in my life.

The only thing better than the food was my company. Simone and I shared some life and travel stories, and just like that, I’d found yet another friend. She’ll be in Pokhara on a five-week placement. Simone is studying to be an Occupational Therapist. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up again once I’m in Australia.

The next morning, I was able to catch her on her way out and we were able to snap a quick picture.

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