Saturday, November 13, 1999
TENZING Norgay, also called Khumjung Bhutia, was the first Indian to scale Mount Everest and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1959.
Tenzing Norgay, called Namgyal Wagundi as a child, was born in May, 1914, in Sola Khumbu, Nepal. His family was poor and deeply religious-minded. They were followers of Buddhism. As a child, Tenzing loved animals and was greatly interested in climbing hills and mountains. As he grew, his love for mountaineering increased and thats what ultimately brought him fame and prosperity. He was the eleventh of the thirteen children in his family. He studied in a monastery and was to became a lama. One day when a lama scolded him, Tenzing ran back home and never returned to the monastery. He made friends with sherpas and heard stories of the various expeditions which were being carried out between 1922 and 1924. Tenzing also helped his father in the fields and looked after the farm animals.
Till the age of 18 years, Tenzing lived with his family and then moved to Darjeeling. By the age of 21 years, he began working as a sherpa. He joined the expedition to scale Mount Everest, headed by Eric Shipton. His dream of reaching the peak remained unfulfilled because they had to return after reaching North Col (a pass in the mountain range), at a height of 22,000 feet. With this expedition, Tenzing gained valuable experience, which helped him later in life. He learnt the use of mountaineering equipment, sleeping bags etc. He also learnt how to make decision regarding taking breaks, changing routes, and choosing safer routes. He even learned to cope with the stress and strain at great heights.
Tenzing joined another expedition in 1932 and then another one in 1935. In 1938 under the guidance of Tilman, he reached the height of 27,000 feet. Bad weather compelled them to return. Unfortunately, in 1944 he lost his wife Dawa Phuti. In 1945, he remarried Ang Lahmu. In 1947, he made another attempt to climb the Everest from Tibet, but he did not succeed. He got yet another chance to climb the mountain in 1952. This time they scaled up to 28,250 feet. Finally in 1953, Colonel John Hunt headed a British expedition. Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, was also with them.
The expedition started in March, 1953. Tenzing and Hillary did some wonderful teamwork. A camp was pitched at South Col, 300 feet below the mountain peak. Colonel Hunt, and sherpa made the first attempt but returned absolutely exhausted. Next Bourdillion and Evans reached the South summit, but could not make it to the peak. Next Hillary and Tenzing made their attempt. At 6.30 a.m., they left the camp, only to return successful. After a torturous climb, they stood on top of the Everest. They happily waved out in the air. Tenzing loosened the flags of the United Nations. Great Britain, Nepal and India and together they fluttered over the Everest, a great moment for so many nations.
Tenzings daughter had given him a packet of sweets and a red and blue pencil, which he lay in the snow along with a small crucifix which Hillary had given him. A press reporter from England waited at the camp at South Col. As soon as Hillary and Tenzing reached South Col, the reporter rushed to the base camp to give the news out to the world. India, rather the entire world, rejoiced over their tremendous achievement.
Tenzing was awarded medals and also honoured by the King of Nepal. The United Press bought his stories and soon Tenzing became financially comfortable, but never proud. He was also appointed Director (training) of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, established by the Government of India. He was fondly called "Tiger of Snows" and will forever be remembered for his courage and determination.
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