“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.

You can climb it and cross to the other side.You can go around it.You can dig under it.You can fly over it.You can blow it up.You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.You can turn around and go back the way you came. Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.”

― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Life has always been a bundle of problems. Most of us keep on complaining, blaming and criticizing others .Some people keep on thinking and analyzing how the problems can be solved by the authorities. This is the story of a man who did not think, but act. 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 wanted to “Do-It-Himself”. Then, 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 labourers, 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 and a medical centre. A 300-foot tall mountain loomed between them and civilization in the adjoining Wazirganj .Like all the Musahar men, Manjhi worked on the other side of the mountain. At noon, his wife Phaguni would bring his lunch. As they had no road, the trek took hours over the mountain. Manjhi tilled fields for a landlord on the other side. He would quarry stone, and in a few hours would be tired and hungry. Manjhi would watch and wait for Phaguni. That day, she came to him empty handed, injured. As the harsh sun beat down, Phaguni tripped on loose rock. Her water pot shattered. She slid down several feet, injuring her leg. Hours past noon, she limped to her husband. Manjhi rushed to chastise her for being late, but on seeing her tears, he became emotional.

Dasrath manjhi

He made a decision of a lifetime: he would make a path through the mountain. Having made up his mind to challenge the mountain, Manjhi sold his goats to buy a hammer, chisel and crowbar. He climbed to the top and started chipping away the peak of the mountain. Years later, he would recount, “That mountain had shattered so many pots; claimed lives. I could not bear that it hurt my wife. If it took all my life now, I would carve a road through the mountain.” In a few days, word about the unusual adventure of Manjhi spread. The work was so arduous that it left him with no energy to earn his livelihood. He had no option but to quit his job. His family often went without food. Then, Phaguni fell ill. The doctor was in Wazirganj, 75 kilometres over the mountain. In the absence of any approach road it was not possible for Manjhi to take his wife to the doctor. The inevitable happened, Phalguni died. Her death only spurred him on. It was not easy. Unyielding, the mountain would cascade rocks at him. 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. In 1982, Gehlour was in for a surprise. After he had chipped at the mountain for 10 years, people saw the cleft Baba, the revered man Manjhi broke through a thin wall of rock and walked out into an open space.

After 22 years, Dashrath Das Manjhi, the outcast landless labourer 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 kilometres away. People from 60 villages in Atri could use his road. Children had to walk only 3 kilometres to reach school. Grateful, they began to call him ‘Baba’, the revered man. But, Manjhi did not stop there. He began knocking on doors, asking for the road to be tarred and connected to the main road. He walked along the railway line all the way to New Delhi, collecting signatures of station masters in a book. He submitted a petition for his road, a hospital for his people, a school and water. In July 2006, ‘Baba’ went to the then-Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’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. They also nominated him for the ‘Padma Shree’, but forest ministry officials fought the nomination, calling his work illegal. “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.” He had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. It would take the government 30 years more to tar the road .On August 17, 2007, Dashrath Manjhi, the man who moved a mountain 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. Had I not started it no one would have.” Manjhi’s words reflect the reality of our country.

Manjhi’s legacy and his inspiration, live on- It lives on among the thousands of Indians who are making a difference to their fellowmen, fighting new battles and overcoming challenges. It lives on in so many of you who are moving your own mountains. … I salute the spirit of Dasrath Manjhi, which drove him to conquer a mountain.

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