Monday, April 16, 2007

Tale of Two Sherpas

Nepal has always been exoticized as a country of brave Gurkha soldiers and adventurous Sherpa mountaineers. Both of these myths are under deconstruction now.

Tenzing Norgay, the famous Nepali son was later snatched away by India and now another relentless mountaineer Appa Sherpa is in the process of becoming American citizen.

Allow me to begin the tale of two Sherpas with Tenzing. He was given Indian citizenship after he scaled Mt Everest with New Zealander Edmund Hillary in 1953.

According to Vijay Jung Thapa, former roving reporter of India Today, Nehru personally befriended him and set him up as director of field training in the country's first mountainering institute in Darjeeling with the message: "Now you will make a thousand Tenzings."

Appa Sherpa is another case in point. This prolific mountaineer who has scaled the highest peak for 16th times, has migrated to US. Report has it that he was offered an O-One visa that is given to foreigners with extraordinary talents in the field of Science, Sports, Education, Business and Commerce.

I guess Appa was awarded that honor for Sports category. But, is mountaineering a sport? It obviously is more than sports. It's an adventure and there is clear distinction between sports and adventure. Mountaineering, climbing the Mt Everest to be specific, is a struggle between Man and Nature. There are incidents of both winning the battle.

But, today Everest is no longer a forte of Sherpas. People with esoteric and eccentric purpose have scaled this summit.

Having settled at Salt Lake City of the US, Appa has returned to his first home recently. He has repeatedly cited growing financial burden upon him (to educate his two grown up sons and a daughter) as a reason for his departure. Apparently, Appa has been lecturing in US about mountaineering and is earning quick bucks.

But, the issue here is different. I have met Appa a couple of times few years back when one of my journo friends was working on his biography. It's another story that the biography never saw the light of the day and my friend also quit mainstream journalism. He nevertheless showed me few chapters of the manuscript and I went along with him to meet this legendary mountaineer. Then, Appa was living in a modest apartment in Thamel while one of his sons was enrolled for free in Nobel Academy.

Now I'm shocked to learn that he has given up all this only to settle in foreign soil. He used to spend six months in a year in Thame, Solukhumbu. Thame is the village that has produced some of world's best mountaineers including Tenzing. Now Tenzing's son Jamling Tenzing Norgay is an Australian citizen. He followed his father's footstep and climbed Everest few years back.

If we continue to lose our best boys to foreign soil, we will soon be the nation of underdogs. Most of our youths are toiling in Gulf countries and Malaysia. Wise men have made USA their second home. Now, the best mountaineers in the world are in the process of glorifying foreign countries like Tenzing did half a century ago. Appa is in Kathmandu for Super Sherpa expedition.


Saral Nepal said...

What is wrong with immigrating to a foreign land? The tone of your article reminds me of my high-school "master-jees" who never failed to glorify patroitism and living and working for the motherland all the while sending his children to the good old US of A. What makes you think that Appa Sherpa is "earning quick bucks", in your own words? Has he not already worked his rear end off scaling the Mt.Everest so many times? How many more years of high-altitude ordeal would he have to endure to make is "hard earned bucks"? Or could your great self not just see a Sherpa man desire and achieve better opportunities for himself and his family? Or, is this Sherpa bound to Nepal and the numerous mountains therein for life and not allowed to aspire for life betterment?
Upset as I am at your point of view, I am not surprised at the source of it. No personal offense to you meant, but what you have displayed here is a typical Nepali journalist's mentality - holier-than-thou syndrome.
No doubt, with high calibre people leaving the country, the nation has much to loose. Any kind of immigration, be it to the Arabian gulf countries or to the western ones, has more than one facet to it. This issue is too vast to even start a discussion in this blog, let alone in this comment section. What I know from personal experience and from so many of my acquaintances who are scattered all of the world, from Qatar to Canada or from Afganisthan to Australia, is that leaving the country of origin is always painful.
I only urge you to focus on the core than report from periphery.

ranjana said...

I totally agree with saral nepal. what's wrong ?

nepalwriter said...

To learn more about the Sherpa tribe that makes climbing Everest possible, read Beyond the Summit by Linda LeBlanc. Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter's point of view.

Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to

Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
Richard Blake for Readers Views.

A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

LeBlanc's vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended."
-- John (college professor)

Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialogue. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

The book is available from,, Barnes & Noble and Borders Stores, and the web site for an autographed copy.

Blogger Deepak said...

Hi Saral,

Thanks for your complex observation. I agree with you that immigration has many facets to it. But, my premise is not only immigration. As a journalist, my job is to highlight trends, be it social or political and observe phenomena. In Tenjing and Appa, I found a compelling analogy though the situation and their predicament is entirely different.

Obviously, there are a number of positive sides such as better exposure, growth in living standard, not to mention the remittance etc to outmigration for a developing country like Nepal. But, and it's a big BUT, how can you justify the brain and body drain at a time when we talk about New Nepal? Don't you, I and suchlike people, are required to rebuild our country after the decade long devastation and destruction? I'm neither patriotic like your "masterjee" nor forcing people like you to come back who have selfishly abandoned motherland looking for greener pastures abroad. What I write in blog is my thought, my opinion and you should be least bothered about it if you are doing well in your own position.

According to you, I "have displayed […. ] a typical Nepali journalist's mentality - holier-than-thou syndrome." But, anyone who reads/has read my blog knows only too well how bogus your claim is. You have also put all Nepali journalists in a blanket term, which is the height of generalization. This sort of generalization can emanate only from a person who adheres to mediocrity; a pseudo intellectual.

I don't have much to say here. I still stand by my writing and you are free to comment, after all that is what we call 'digital democracy.' This is the beauty of blog; anyone can air his/her opinion. I would like to quote following lines from Bangladeshi poet Kaiser Haq (Read Mr. Saral instead of Mr Vidal and Nepali instead of Bengali):

What are we to do, Mr Vidal?
Stop writing, and if we do,
Not publish?
Join an immigration queue, hoping
To head for the Diaspora dead-end?
Exhibit in alien multicultural mesuem?
No way
Here I'll stay, plumb in the centre
of monsoon-mad Bengali, watching
Jackfruit leaves drift earthward
In the early morning breeze.

(From "Published in the Streets of Dhaka)

Saral Nepal said...

Namaste. I bow to thee.
Thank you for the enlightening and morally uplifting "paath". How stupid of me to have not realized of my "selfish" motives in being a "rikute" and not staying in my holy motherland either participating in the slaughter of thousands for patriotic causes or observing the same from Kathmandu's vantage. You called me a "pseudo intellectual" - nay, I am a moron of gigantic proportion ("abbal darja ko swaanth") not even worthy of a mediocrity. I am a bottom dweller, desperately in need of a moral and educational whipping from REAL/TRUE intellectuals like ...hmmm, let me think...hmmm... I don't, perhaps? :-D
I do hope and pray to the LORD PASUPATINATH that with time the demoracy of the digital kind that you mentioned, expands beyond my digits and becomes cordial or even mental. O Sir, I do apologize for my stupidity.
Insignificantly yours,

Ujjwal Acharya said...

I enjoyed reading comments more than the post itself (not to underestimate the effort Deepak has put in writing the post).

I don't know what to say. I partially don't like famous Nepali living in other's country. I always hated to read Tenzing Norgay taking the Indian citizenship.

Let me put an experience here. Last year I was trekking to Mt Everest Basecamp and at every stay point I met one or other Everest summiter. At Tengboche, I met two Sherpas, one of whom had scaled the summit thrice and other twice and they were returning. One other summiter who had scaled Everest twice served me a cup of tea as a shopkeeper. Isn't that odd? Everest summiter just live like a normal people. Are there any prize or even the recognisation for them?

To expect others to do something for us is not always good. We could do many things ourselves.

Raj Shrestha said...

yes indeed i also dont like taking foreign citizenship by the nepalese climber.But they should be treat well in the country.......

Salik said...

Great discussions going on here...

Paribartan said...

Dear Deepakjee,
Thanks for your simple observations. Definitely, your observations are without pretensions and any preachings. Whatever you have written here is a reality that Nepalese needs excuse to lampoon Nepal and settle in so called developed countries. Our country has not developed only for that reason. General mindset is that people who are successful to go abroad is really successful. This is not true.

Tenzing went to India as he could not overcome temptation of Jawaharlal Nehru. It is still debatable how much benefit India has received from his change of Nationality. But, it is true that his departure to India created a kind of void in Nepal and it has embittered many of us that such a record holder has traded his nationality with facility.

Now, Appa is going to US claiming that he has to take care of his wards and their education. No doubt in US, he can earn both money and fame. And he can definitely educate his wards in best of the universities there. But is this end to his name? Scaled mount everest for 16 times to earn green card in US? This has made our nationalism quite cheap and turned into a purchasable commodity.

What should we need to do?

It is their individual rights that they can migrate to anywhere and they can live anywhere. But, their being torchbearers should have made them realize that they owe something to Nepal which used to be their karmabhumi. Agreed that government of Nepal nor Nepalis society is favourable to our heroes. So, how long can we allow our hero evicting social system in Nepal? We need to raise voices now cautioning both our heroes and society and government to complement each other. Our heroes must continue to seek advancements in their related fields in Nepal itself and our society and government needs to provide every conceivable facilities to our heroes.

Petty politicians, merely for being bootlickers of some leaders, accrue much more benefit. But, heroes need to stand in que to meet these politicians. So, discouragements are bound to be there. We need to, now onwards, impress that our heroes are not politicians. Our heroes are social activists, mountaineers, musicians, actors, enterpreneurs, educationists, scientists and journalists. Only with iconic people from different walks of life getting more social approval and recognitions, we will be able to free ourselves from the shackles of "rever politicians as hero" kind of mentality.

Now, regarding saral nepal, I must tell that he is in habit of not only poking his bloody nose into others' affairs but is also headstrung and strongly opinionated. It is useless issuing rebuttals to such people.