The Tenzing of Babulnath

Those were the days of black and white TV, tweets were noises that birds made and the news slipped through your door, rolled up like a baton, and that's how India heard about the Everest conquest.

Jatin 'Tenzing' Desai at his Babulnath home. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Jatin 'Tenzing' Desai at his Babulnath home. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Janit 'Tenzing' Desai (62) Babulnath resident, "My relatives spoke about the excitement in the air in 1953. Mount Everest had been conquered by Edmund Hillary-Tenzing Norgay, and there was elation everywhere. The final frontier of mountaineering had been breached."

So, when Janit Desai was born in October 1953, "an uncle advised my parents to call me Tenzing. So, though Janit is my real name, I have been Tenzing ever since." He adds with a laugh, "I remember my father, when I was getting admission to a school actually wrote my name down in the admission form as, Janit Tenzing Desai," said Desai.

Babulnath's 'Tenzing' recalls in the 1990s, we made a family trip to Darjeeling. "We went to a mountaineering museum, which was full of pictures of Tenzing-Hillary. My family was calling out to me, 'Tenzing, Tenzing' and people at the exhibition whipped around, thinking the real Tenzing, had arrived." Incidentally, the mountaineer Tenzing Norgay died in 1986.

Desai says only half in jest, "Those days, people had a penchant to give nicknames. I think, it is better to have a nickname like Tenzing, rather than be called, Pinkoo, Chintoo, Pinky, Binky. A Chintoo I know is nothing like a chintoo, he is a big hulk of a man now," says Desai.

On a more serious note, Desai adds, "I think about the enormity of this achievement whenever May 29 comes around. Climbing facilities in 1953, were really thin then, skeletal compared to the great advances today. It calls for sobriety and introspection."

Desai adds that the Everest literally, may be out of reach for most, but, "we all have personal Everests to climb, more metaphorical than literal, where we need to conquer our greatest fears and doubts. This May 29, let's all look for the Edmund Hillary and yes, of course the Tenzing Norgay in us," says the 'Tenzing' of SoBo, on a philosophical, finishing note.

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