This is the story of an ordinary man. He was among India’s poorest of poor. He decided, if those in power would not help his people, he would. This is a man who believed in the Do-It-Yourself spirit! Without pausing for a thought, he went ahead and did just that with his bare hands. This is the story of Dashrath Manjhi: the man who moved a mountain, so his people could reach a doctor in time.
It was 1960. Landless laborers, the Musahars lived amid rocky terrain in the remote Atri block of Gaya, Bihar, in northern India. In the hamlet of Gehlour, they were regarded the lowest of the low in a caste-ridden society, and denied the basics: water supply, electricity, a school, a medical center. A 300- foot tall mountain loomed between them and civilization.
Like all the Musahar men, Dashrath Manjhi, worked on the other side of the mountain. As they had no road, the trek took hours over the mountain. Dashrath tilled fields for a landlord on the other side. He would quarry stone. And in a few hours from then, he would be tired and hungry.
He would watch and wait for Phaguni, his wife,to bring lunch to him. That day, she would come to him empty handed, injured. Phaguni had tripped on loose rock. She slid down several feet, injuring her leg. Hours past noon, she limped to her husband. He rushed to chastise her for being late. But on seeing her tears, he made a decision.
Dashrath sold his goats, and bought a hammer, chisel, and crowbar. He climbed to the top, and started chipping away at the mountain.
DASHRATH CARVED A ROAD SO HIS PEOPLE WOULD NO LONGER DIE TREKKING 70 KILOMETERS TO REACH A DOCTOR
HIS WIFE’S DEATH ENRAGED HIM MORE, IT SPURRED HIM ON
Word spread. Chipping at the mountain, he quit his wage job. His family often went without food. Then, Phaguni fell ill. The doctor was in Wazirganj, 75 kilometers over the mountain. Unable to make the journey, she died. Her death only spurred him on.
It was not easy. He would get hurt, he would rest and start again. At times, he helped people carry their things over the mountain for a small fee, money to feed his children. After 10 years, as Manjhi chipped away, people saw a cleft in the mountain; some came to help.
After 22 years, Dashrath Das Manjhi, the outcast landless laborer had conquered the mountain: he had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Wazirganj, with its doctors, jobs, and school, was now only 5 kilometers away. People from 60 villages in Atri could use his road. Children had to walk only 3 kilometers to reach school. Grateful, they began to call him ‘Baba’, the revered man.
But Dashrath did not stop there. He began knocking on doors, asking for the road to be tarred, connected to the main road. He walked along the railway line all the way to New Delhi, the capital. He submitted a petition there, for his road, for a hospital for his people, a school, water. In July 2006, ‘Baba’ went to the then Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Bhardwaj’s ‘junta durbar’. The minister, overwhelmed, got up and offered ‘Baba’ his chair, his minister’s seat; a rare honor for a man of Manjhi’s background.
The government rewarded his efforts with a plot of land; Manjhi donated the land back for a hospital. “I do not care for these awards, this fame, the money,”he said. “All I want is a road, a school, and a hospital for our people. They toil so hard. It will help their women and children.” It would take them 30 years to tar his road.
On August 17, 2007, Dashrath Manjhi, lost his battle with cancer. All that he had done was for no personal gain. “I started this work out of love for my wife, but continued it for my people. If I did not, no one would.” Manjhi’s words reflect the reality of our country.
NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN
Manjhi’s legacy, his inspiration, should not die with him. It should live on among the millions of us who are facing challenges, fighting battles and witnessing problems. How often have you looked at a problem and said “I’m going to solve it myself!”? How often do you make the CHOICE to make the CHANGE? This Republic Day, we’re pledging to make 2015 the year of the Do-It-Yourself Indian. It’s time to pick up the hammer ourselves and start chipping away at the insurmountable mountains that surround us. Today, India needs you to Do-It-Yourself! Start with recognizing the common heroes, share their stories and inspire many others.