Ordinary Men- Extraordinary Lives!

4.Mahatma Gandhi 1930s -There is no path to Peace. Peace is the path

Manjhi- the Mountain Man, a powerful biopic based on the real life of Dasharath Manjhi opened in cinemas nationwide last Friday. Compared to the fanfare that one sees normally for all big ticket movies, this was low key and why not? The man himself was relatively unknown; no one celebrated his life while he was alive. Yet it has taken a bold director to unearth the story of a real life hero and bring it to the knowledge of the world.

Who exactly was this man? He was a poor laborer who lived in Gehalaur village near Gaya in Bihar. He used to travel far everyday in search of work and his loving wife used to bring lunch for him every day. One day as she was crossing the path taking his lunch, she slipped and fell, injuring herself seriously. Now he had a real problem in his hands. The nearest hospital was nearly 55 km away and she died as she could not receive medical attention. What’s new in this story you may ask? For this is a familiar report we always read in the papers almost every day. And we might forget the story as soon as we have finished reading the report. But not Manjhi. He got up like a man possessed and decided that day that he would not let anyone die for want of medical attention if he could help it. But a great mountain stood between his village and the nearest town that could provide medical care and villagers had to circumvent the long distance to reach the hospital. So he single handedly took a chisel and hammer and started carving a road through the mountain. Fellow villagers thought he was a total lunatic. But he did not care. In fact he said ‘When I started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic but that steeled my resolve.’

For 22 long years, he worked with determination and a never say die spirit and the result- he dug up a road that could shorten travel from 55km to 15 km to the town that had a hospital. What an inspiring tale. But he died an unsung hero in 2007 though the Bihar government proposed his name for a Padma award. Another inspiring tale is about the jungle man Jadav Moloi Payeng. He was only 17 when there were floods in his village and he saw thousands of snakes washed dead in the waters. He asked the village elders “what would you do if all of us die one day, like these snakes. They just laughed and smirked but I knew I had to make the planet greener,” He went to the forest officials asking them to plant trees. They mocked at him and said ‘you do it if you want’. That was it. Jadav decided to plant trees. For 30 years he planted bamboo saplings in an area that had been washed away by floods. Today, that same land hosts 1,360 acres of Jungle called Molai Forest, named after him, the man who made this possible single handedly!

These are inspiring tales of ordinary men doing extraordinary things but alas we don’t celebrate these men or their feats. Once, when our former President Dr. Abdul Kalam went to Israel, he saw the newspapers full of inspiring stories and he bemused when will India ever get this kind of culture. Our papers are full of sensational stories of murders, of rapes, of bomb blasts and terror attacks, we have forgotten our real heroes who can inspire and motivate us to do something for others. Recently I saw a Facebook post which was to this effect- Do you think you are too small to make a change, then think of what a tiny mosquito can do inside your blanket when you are fast asleep. I think all of us can, if only we apply ourselves to it, until then, let us raise a toast to the Manjhis and Payengs of the world!