| Jamling after a felicitation in Kathmandu on Tuesday. (AFP)
Darjeeling, May 27: The world is celebrating the golden jubilee of the first Everest conquest but the last thing Tenzing Norgay wanted his sons to be was mountaineers.
The celebrity sherpa — first to set foot on the highest peak with Edmund Hillary as part of a British expedition on May 29, 1953 — had his head in clouds, but feet firmly on the ground.
“He wanted us to stay away from the mountains and study hard. He knew the value of education,” Jamling Tenzing Norgay, the US-educated son of the summit pioneer, said.
Jamling, one of Tenzing’s three sons and a daughter, had tried several times to get his father to change his mind, but failed. “His answer was always a firm ‘no’. He was steadfast in his refusal,” Jamling said. He had to wait till 1996 for his dream of scaling the Everest to come true.
A member of the IMAX team, he “cried like a baby” when he set his booted foot on the peak 43 years after his father. It was also the 10th death anniversary of Tenzing. The son retraced the steps the father had not wanted him to take as he became the second “Tenzing”— Jamling’s middle name — to summit Everest.
Born into an impoverished sherpa family in Nepal’s Khumbu region, which migrated to Darjeeling in search of work, Tenzing, deprived of formal education, used his post-Everest fame and wealth to put his children through the best public schools in Darjeeling and later sent them abroad for higher studies.
“My father wanted us to be educated. He always said ‘education is the best thing parents can give to their children’. He spent whatever he earned on our education,” Jamling, the 38-year-old managing director of Tenzing Norgay Adventures, said.
While Jamling, an alumnus of St. Paul’s School in Darjeeling, shuttles between the hill resort and Kathmandu running his trekking agency, his brothers — Norbu and Dhamey — live in the US and Switzerland.
Tenzing’s only daughter is also in the US. “We are happy that we have not let down our father. Up there, he must be very happy, too,” Jamling said.
“The sherpas put their lives on the line so they can send their children to school. May sound strange, but this is the reality. Very few sherpas take up climbing for pleasure or because they enjoy it.” Tenzing’s son bristles at the “moaning by some writers” that the traditional sherpa way of life is changing. “They do have a right to change, don’t they' Especially when they know it’s a change for the better,” he said.