Never again would I see his wry sideways smile as he gently rubbed his stubbled head in that curious distinctive way, attentive, nodding, self-deprecating. Never again would we dine together off the candle-lit polished tables at Le Sherpa restaurant with clients and relatives he wanted me to meet.
Tshiring never wasted words, and I learned to listen carefully. Not once did I see him riled or angry, or indeed anything but thoughtful and measured. Even when I could tell he did not agree with my recommendations — to refocus the family brand, consolidate companies, or add value by improving service standards — he was unfailingly polite and patient. “Thank you, madam,” he would smile. He always liked to call me madam, with irony, no doubt.
Tshiring was Nepal’s most innovative and wildly courageous tourism operator, striding fearlessly into deals with a sure instinct and confidence, trusting his powers of persuasion. His office team of competent henchmen and array of associated family members managed his Kathmandu-based empire of airlines, travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, remote lodges, wildlife camps, trekking and mountaineering companies.
It was part of his quiet charm that he did not always get things right, had trouble navigating family politics, learned from mistakes, courted controversy and often moved in mysterious ways.
I admired his business panache, but was most captivated by Tshiring’s persuasive rags to riches story, his ascent from humble origins in the Himalayan hamlet of Pangom to creator of Nepal’s major tourism conglomerate.
“Let’s make a film about you,” I suggested. The narrative sweeps from a Solu Khumbu kitchen boy, the lowest rung of a trek team, running away to Kathmandu with Rs300 in his pocket (the exact amount is debated), to building the Yeti Group. He out-manoeuvred opponents with canny golf course diplomacy at Gokarna and invented champagne helicopter breakfasts with a view of Everest.
In between, as a Sherpa sirdar he led treks throughout Nepal and during the summer worked in French alpine chalets. With typical modesty Tshiring was reticent about a movie, but liked the idea of a book for his extensive and extended Sherpa family.
Mindful of those less fortunate than himself, philanthropy motivated many of Tshiring’s travel ideas interwoven with commercial interests. Every air ticket sold planted a sapling and each boarding pass donated five rupees to one of his charitable CSR causes. He embraced community development, and painted the Great Himalaya Trail logo onto his mountain aircraft.