Darjeeling, May 29: Fifty years ago, an unknown Sherpa gave himself a little birthday present: he became, along with a beekeeper from New Zealand, the first man to conquer the Everest.
But amid the pomp and glitter of the golden jubilee celebrations, Tenzing Norgay’s 89th birth anniversary was all but forgotten.
His palatial residence on Dal Bahadur Road was deserted. Jamling, Tenzing’s son, has left for the jubilee celebrations.
Jamling’s brothers, Norbu and Dhamey, live in the US and Switzerland and even his nephew, Nawang Gombu, the first man to climb Everest twice, in 1963 and 1965, is away to attend jubilee functions in London.
The house is deserted. But a looming mural is visible from a distance. The Southeast ridge of the mountain that made a legend of the ordinary Sherpa is drawn to the last detail of the nine camps they set up en route to the snowy summit. An Everest insignia adorns the gate. Tenzing’s passion for peaks is palpable.
At the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, an epitaph reads: “Here was cremated Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on 14 May 1986.” Wreaths placed by the HMI Everest team and members of the All India Sherpa Association and Sherpa Buddhist Association were the only signs that the place was visited.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten that Tenzing was born on this day in Solo Khumbu, Nepal, in 1914.
Darjeeling, where Tenzing had spent most of his life, had woken up late to the prospect of celebrating Tenzing’s achievement.
Apart from a couple of low-key functions, the hill town was caught unawares about the “son of the soil’s” birthday.
Alubari and Toonsong, where Tenzing stayed since 1933 before moving to this palatial house after becoming a national icon, were eerily silent.
Amar Rai, a member of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations Committee, admitted that they could not organise a big event to honour the hometown hero.
“Our year-long celebration has been inaugurated and we plan to hold quiz programmes and film shows. We will also invite Sir Edmund Hillary to visit Darjeeling this year and we will mobilise public support and request the government to name a road after him (Tenzing),” he said, speaking at a modest function in the Loreto College auditorium, where a symposium on mountain expeditions and an exhibition of rare photographs was opened today.
K.P. Malla, another member, said: “The town, from where all Everest expeditions started before Nepal opened its gates to foreigners in 1950, has not found a place in the festivities. With cooperation, we can make the rest of our celebrations better.”