Do you know the names of the two men who climbed Mount Everest on May 29, 1953 and became the first people in the world to reach its peak?
In this part of the world -- South Asia -- the Himalayan mountains are a big deal. They are worshiped by some, sacred to many, and adored by all. They inspire awe, and rightly so. It is the largest mountain range in the world and boasts the highest peak on the planet -- Mount Everest -- at an elevation of 8848 metres (29,029 feet).
This past week, here in Delhi, we had a very unique surprise as we were spending some time with a friend of ours named Dhamey. My wife had coached with him two years ago in the Delhi International Football League and our daughter had been teammates with his son. They are a very friendly family from Tibetan/Nepali/Bhutanese background and we've appreciated the opportunity to keep in touch with them. On Sunday afternoon, we were enjoying lunch together and Dhamey started asking us about what parts of North India we have visited. We talked about our frequent visits to the hills and our love for the Himalayan mountains. He began to share some amazing stories and memories about his late father’s love for the mountains. Later in the conversation, he humbly told us that his father was Tenzing Norgay, the first person to climb Mount Everest! He was the local guide who accompanied Edmund Hillary to the summit of Everest in their historic expedition in 1953.
Dhamey told us that his father was a simple and humble man. As the story goes, when Tenzing was pushed to disclose whether it was he or Hillary who was the first to actually set his foot on the summit, he readily confessed that it was Hillary who was the first to stand on top of the world. According to Tenzing, "If it is a shame to be the second man on Mount Everest, then I will have to live with this shame."
On a humorous note, when Hillary was asked why there were only photos of Tenzing on the top of Everest, he replied, "Tenzing did not know how to operate the camera and the top of Everest was no place to start teaching him how to use it."
Apparently, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were assigned to each other for the expedition and only met briefly before they began, though they remained friends throughout the rest of their lives.
Dhamey told us other stories about his dad and how he dealt graciously with becoming an international celebrity. He also talked about his father's friendship with the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Together those two men started the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, the hill station in West Bengal, India, which became home to the Norgay family. Dhamey's brother, Jamling, is an avid climber and operates Tenzing Norgay Adventures from Darjeeling to this day.
It was especially exciting for my eldest daughter to learn more about Tenzing Norgay from an inside source as she had just studied about him for her Class IV Social Studies exam. For us, meeting people like the Norgay family is one of the perks of living in New Delhi.