A giant among mankind has just passed away.
Sir Edmund Hillary – the first man to climb to the top of the highest mountain in the world together with his Nepalese guide Tenzing Norgay – died at 9 am today in Auckland.
I remember when I was standard 5 (in the sixties) , we read about Hillary and Tenzing in our Geography book, and how we hero worshipped the pair. Then, staying in Ayer Itam at the foot of Penang Hill, it took us half a day to climb up the Penang Hill, which is about 2000 over feet high. We could only imagine how difficult it was to climb a mountain that is over 20000 feet high, what more our teacher was telling us that there was no oxygen up there (which is not really true, it was more like very thin air up there). That was also a time when we like to remember all the top achievers in the world and challenge each other on this type of general knowledge.
Now, of course, we know that to climb a mountain like the Everest, you need months of preparation and a dedicated team support. It could not be done just by one or 2 persons.
People remember Hillary and Tenzing. But there were many more, I am sure, in that team of theirs, who have contributed to their success in conquering the Everest. No one , however, cares who was the team leader and so on, we glorify only the achievers.
This is like in politics. IT takes a whole team effort to put someone up there, but once up there, very few remember who are their supporters and who are the contributors.
That is not to belittle Hillary and Tenzing’s efforts. Both deserve their places in history. By their gallant efforts, they showed the whole world that nothing was impossible. Man dreams and yet if he put his heart and soul to it, no dream is impossible to achieve. Hillary and Tenzing, more than Neil Armstrong 16 years later later, proved this point.
Hillary had remained humble all his life . News report mentioned that he was humble to the point that he only admitted being the first man atop Everest long after the death of Norgay.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister said it all “”Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only ‘knocked off’ Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.”
Persons whom we hero worshipped when we were young have a special place in our heart. My heroes then were Hillary & Tenzing, Yuet Fei (the Chinese general in Sung Dynasty), Kung Min( the war strategist in the Three kingdom period), Chou En Lai (whom I still revere today), SunYat Sun and Gandhi. They have remianed very special to me.
SO I really feel sad that such a giant has passed away. But that is life, no matter how great and how much you have achieved, ultimately, there is only one certainty – death.