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Darjeeling holds funds ladder for climber

Darjeeling, July 2: True to the spirit of its most famous son, the hometown of Tenzing Norgay came together to help a youngster scale a hurdle that had seemed impossible.

The residents of Darjeeling have funded a trip to France for 26-year-old Robin Rai, who will represent India at the world rock-climbing championship in Chamonix, when all had seemed lost to the youth.

Chosen by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation in New Delhi to represent India at the prestigious contest, Rai was desperate for at least Rs 80,000 that would buy him a ticket to France. A story on Rai that had appeared in the June 20 edition of The Telegraph described this desperation for funds to avail of “a lifetime opportunity”.

Following the publication of the report, help started trickling in from all over the town determined to see him through.

In the next nine days, the town contributed around Rs 1.20 lakh. Contributions flowed in till Monday.

Hawkers, schools, banks, the bar association, the DGHC and a host of other organisations and individuals contributed for the cause.

Yesterday Rai left for Delhi, where he will join three other climbers from south India. The team leaves India on July 5 for the five-day United International Alpine Association Tournament, the world championships of the sport, which begins on July 9.

“I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support they have given me. Without them, this trip would have been impossible. There were many who told me that I should have approached them for the money even before the report was published in the paper. There was this particular gentleman who handed me a bottle of Bournvita. I was so touched by the gesture,” said Rai, who is also a part-time instructor at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.

“I only hope I can live up to the expectations of my people. I am a bit tensed but I will give my best shot,” said an excited Rai. He also thanked Jamling Tenzing Norgay, who heads the Tenzing Norgay Climbing Club, for his support.

The Rotary Club has got in touch with its members in Chamonix and asked them to look after Rai during his stay abroad.

Mary Polant, a resident of Washington who went around seeking help for Rai, said: “I have been here for just a month but I was really happy to see the unity of this community. It was such a nice gesture.”

According to Som Namchu, a resident of the town, it is irrelevant whether Rai wins the contest or not. “The feeling that Darjeeling came together for a common cause is simply great. That is all that matters.”

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