statesman news service
KOLKATA, 15 JUNE: When Phurba Sherpa (sns photo) goes to work, it is not at all unusual for him to come across a dead body. After all, his job is no ordinary one; "office", for Mr Sherpa, is the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, which he has climbed five times till now.
Mr Sherpa was among a team of mountaineers led by the Shyampukur police station officer-in-charge, Mr Ujjal Rai, who were felicitated recently by the chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee in the city for successfully climbing Everest.
But amidst the acclamation, Mr Sherpa admits, climbing Mount Everest is not an adventure for him, unlike others who take it as a challenging expedition.
Rather, a sense of duty towards his family forces him to dare again and again the dangerous terrain where a thin line separates life from death.
If ever he needed it, the sight of a dead body on the perilous path to the mountain’s peak serves as a reminder.
Mr Sherpa is not alone in eking out a living by putting his life in danger. Phurba says there are hundreds of Sherpas in Darjeeling like him who guide people seeking to climb Mount Everest, just to earn a morsel of bread.
“We have to put our lives in jeopardy while climbing Everest and other high peaks. People who scale them are honoured, but nobody cares about us,” rued Phurba.
“Many a times we save the lives of mountaineers and many Sherpas succumbed to the chilly conditions, but our deeds are forgotten,” he said.
The condition of the Sherpas becomes pitiable in the autumn of their lives when they cannot climb the mountains and have to depend on their meagre savings from the heydays. The state government has done nothing to address their plight, Phurba says.
The Sherpas shot to fame after Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay set foot on the summit of Mount Everest more than 60 years ago, but sadly the world remembers people who win the mountains, but not those who help in achieving the feat, Phurba said, who is to return to join another expedition in the Himalayas, not for an adventure but to feed the hungry stomachs of his family.