| Sherpa Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the legendary Sherpa, responds to the call of the mountains. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Far from the media glare focussed on the golden jubilee celebrations of the first conquest of Mount Everest, where “nations prepare to rake in revenue”, a son plans a tribute to his father. The silent salute of sinewy Sherpa Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the legendary Sherpa Tenzing Norgay is, however, tinged with remorse — in part, because “my father is not there among us”, and also because the way nature has been “vandalised by thoughtless adventurists”.
In the city on Thursday to promote National Geographic India’s maiden production, Mission Everest, the second-generation Everester looked back on the gradual transformation of the “once-untrammelled path” to a “path trod once too often” — the benefits man had reaped from a route opened by Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to the price the mountains and the environment have had to pay for it.
Jamling, who will be shuttling across the globe to be part of the jubilee moments, promised to try and make time to spend a private moment with his family to pay his respects. “Whatever we brothers have achieved is because of the sacrifices our father made for us,” says the fourth of six sons. Norgay senior “had climbed peaks so we would never have to do the same to earn a living”. But Jamling was destined to climb. Not as a source of sustenance, “but to follow my dreams, whatever the odds, and walk the route opened by my father”.
The chance to reach the heights scaled by his father came in 1996, when Jamling was selected leader of the Everest IMAX expedition. With nine climbers dying on the frozen slopes of the peak, the film documented Jamling’s team’s selflessness in risking life and limb to rescue stranded climbers. His efforts earned him The Dalai Lama’s Award and the National Citizen’s Award from the President of India.
“My father climbed the peak because he was driven by the desire to explore and not to set a record. I was spurred on by the same zeal,” says Jamling. But the tragedy, seen from such close quarters, left his wife fearful of his safety. “I promised her never to climb Everest again.”
Climbing, of course, was not the only way to enjoy the mountains. With adventure running in his genes, Jamling graduated from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and spent quite a few years in the US, before responding to the call of the mountains back home. He returned to Darjeeling to fulfil his father’s dream of “giving something back to the community and the mountains”.
Setting up an adventure travel company to fuel his escapades into the lap of nature, Jamling began working with environmental organisations and schoolchildren to “clean up the filth left by mindless visitors”. Reforestation, clean-up expeditions at the foothills and along trek routes, and escorting tourists around mountains take up most of his time.
“But even today, when I am with tourists at the base of Mount Everest, an unseen force pulls me to be with myself, flooding my mind with images of my father’s uphill climb on the virgin slopes,” admits Jamling.
The fact that he is still known as Tenzing Norgay’s son does not seem to trouble Jamling one bit. In fact, nothing makes him more proud. “It is not like I am under the shadow of my father. It is like I can feel his spirit protecting me.”