I AM A TIBETAN: Tenzing Norgay
Phayul[Tuesday, January 15, 2008 14:30]
By Gyalpo Tsering

It is heartbreaking when great, unassuming people pass away, and more so for the well wishers they leave behind. With the final departure of Sir Edmund Hillary from our earth, we only hope that his journey and the next faze of his existence will be as smooth and eventful as this life.

On the summit of Mount Everest, 29 May 1953. Tenzing was born in May, 1914, in Kharta Valley, Tibet. (Photo taken by Edmund Hillary/Wikipedia)
On the summit of Mount Everest, 29 May 1953. Tenzing was born in May, 1914, in Kharta Valley, Tibet. (Photo taken by Edmund Hillary/Wikipedia)
As famous as "Ed" was, we must not forget the role that his loyal partner, Tenzing Norgay played in reaching the summit of Mount Everest, a near impossible task in 1953. Today, thousands of people have climbed Mount Everest yet; Tenzing Norgay will forever remain in the shadow of the great mountain. Perhaps one day when Tibet is free, his name will be among those of our great heroes.

I remember one day at school, we were assembled in our main assembly hall and Tenzing Norgay, from the famous Darjeeling Mountaineering Institute, was invited to Speak. He was a short, modest, "Sherpa" man. And when he spoke, it was in a quiet subdued voice that entertained the assembled kids with Hillary and his great feat of climbing Mount Everest. For most of the address I was fidgeting and squirming on the hard wooden bench that we had for seats, and his words just flew over my head, besides, I had no interest in climbing or mountains.

Finally, at the end of what seemed an eternity his speech wound down and the final question was answered. All the children rose and were preparing to leave the assembly hall, in an "orderly" fashion, when the school headmaster, Mr. Brooks walked to the center of the stage and began to make an announcement. All I could hear above the din was, “Tibetan boys stay behind". I was disappointed, I needed some fresh air and I needed to play with the bits of metal, stones and wires that I had freshly collected.

We gathered at the front rows of the hall, the seven or eight "Tibetans" that remained behind. I was confused and was wondering why a "Sherpa" would want to talk to Tibetans, since I came to believe that Sherpas claimed to be Nepalese and not Tibetans. Perhaps, I was not old enough to comprehend the intricacies of citizenship and immigration, but his first words to us was calming and reassuring. He said, "I am a Tibetan!" in a loud clear voice. I woke up then.

Tenzing, explained at length with fine detail, why he came to be called a Sherpa. As a Tibetan refugee, there was no chance in hell of being recognized as a hero along side Edmund Hillary. With Ed's help he gained, meaning full employment as a mountain porter, and then a famous mountaineer and the story went on.

In hind site, I got to thank Tenzing Norgay for his words that made me realize that I was a Tibetan. Growing up as an orphan with no relatives or friends up until that time, I wasn't sure who or what I was and where I was headed. After hearing those great words not from a famous man, but a humble mountain porter, I realized who I want to be, forever, a Tibetan!

Gyalpo Tsering can be reached at gyalpo.tsering@gmail.com