Tenzing centenary toned down – Tribute to Sherpas killed in Everest avalanche

The Telegraph


The Tenzing Norgay Sherpa memorial at HMI. Picture by Suman Tamang

Darjeeling, May 6: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has cancelled some of the programmes planned for the birth centenary celebration of Everester Tenzing Norgay Sherpa as a mark of respect to the 16 Sherpas killed in an avalanche on the Everest on April 18.

Cultural programmes and an exhibition on Tenzing’s life that were supposed to be held at the HMI campus in Birch Hill here on May 29 have been called off.

Colonel Gulshan Chadha, interim principal of the HMI, said: “We had made grand plans for the birth centenary celebrations of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. But now we have decided to hold a sombre event as a mark of respect to the 16 Sherpas who lost their lives recently.”

He added: “We were planning to get a cultural troupe from Nepal to perform along with artistes from Bengal, including Darjeeling. An exhibition on the life and times of Tenzing Norgay was also to be held in Darjeeling. Now, we will pay homage to Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and invite the stakeholders of the fraternity to the event on May 29. We will also light 108 butter lamps (according to the Buddhist tradition) to pray for the departed souls.”

Tenzing Norgay’s birthday is celebrated on May 29, the day he, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, scaled the Everest for the first time in 1953.

Tenzing believed he was born on that day and he had even registered his birthday as May 29, 1914.

The climber died on May 9, 1986.

The HMI was set up in Darjeeling on November 4, 1954, largely because Tenzing lived in Darjeeling.

A Tenzing memorial has been set up on the HMI premises, where the mountaineer served, first as the director of field training and later as the advisor to the institution.

The memorial also mentions his date of birth as May 29, 1914.

Few years ago when this reporter had asked Tenzing’s son Jamling Tenzing Norgay Sherpa if it was a mere coincidence that the climber’s date of birth and the day he scaled Mount Everest were the same, Jamling had said: “My father always thought since he had climbed the Everest on May 29, he must have been born on that day.”

Jamling could not be contacted today.

Soon after the April 18 disaster, Jamling, an everester himself, had termed the Sherpas the Unsung Heroes.

On a Facebook post on April 19, he had written: “Chomolungma, claims more lives at the beginning of the climbing season. A very sad day to have lost 13 of our Sherpa brothers. They risk their lives a lot more to get the western climbers to the top. Our prayers and thoughts are with them and their families. We continue to remember the fallen Sherpas, the “Unsung Heroes” of the Himalayas. May their souls rest in Peace.”

When Jamling wrote the post, 13 deaths had been confirmed. Later, three more bodies were found.

In 1996, soon after climbing the Everest, Jamling wrote a book, Touching My Father’s Soul, which, according to many, was notable as Jamling had discussed the relationship between wealthy climbers and Sherpas.

Jamling’s book was also the first to discuss the point of view of the Sherpas. It mentioned the disastrous May 1996 climbing season, during which, 12 climbers had died while scaling the Everest.

Chadha, who is also the director of the National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Arunachal Pradesh, said: “The 60th year of the HMI would be celebrated throughout the later half of this year and the beginning of 2015. The plans would be finalised after consulting the state government.”

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