“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Dashrath Manjhi lived in Gehlaur, a remote village in the mountains of Bihar, India. He lived in poverty with his child and wife, carving out a life as a landless laborer living in a village with very few resources. For the villagers, accessing basic facilities like medical care involved a 34-mile trek around the mountain.
This long journey is what would eventually change Dashrath’s life forever.
Dasharth worked the fields on the other side of the low but treacherous mountains. Every day, he, his fellow workers, and young students trying to get to school would either take the long walk around the mountain ridges or hike the shorter but narrow and more dangerous trails over the top to reach the other side. It was on the narrow winding trails that tragedy struck in 1959.
Most days, Dashrath’s wife, Falguni Devi, would traverse the climb to bring him food and water while he worked. One day, instead of his wife coming to him, it was another villager bringing the news that his wife had fallen from the path and was gravely wounded.
Dashrath rushed to find his wife broken and bleeding, and because of the mountains in between his wife and help, he wasn’t able to get her to the hospital in time, and she died.
So heartbroken and angered was Dashrath that he vowed to cut a road through the mountains so a disaster like this would never happen again.
In 1960, he got to work with only a chisel and hammer. The locals were not supportive and called him names.”When I started hammering the hill, people called me a lunatic, but that steeled my resolve.” Even though he was mocked by the very people he was trying to help, Dashrath never gave up.
Twenty-two years later, in 1982, the pathway was complete at 360 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 25 feet deep. People from 60 different villages could now use the road he had built to get to school, the hospital, and the river. Thousands of people now use that road every day, and even though it wasn’t complete before he passed away, the road is now paved, so the trip is even faster.
Once complete, the trip from his village to the hospital his wife so desperately needed went from 34 miles to just 2.
Remember the tangible impact one person can have on their community, even if they start without very much support. “Though most villagers taunted me at first, there were quite a few who lent me support later by giving me food and helping me buy my tools.”
It’s incredible what Dashrath accomplished, and while we might not need to move literal mountains, it’s good to remember what perseverance, purpose, and a good heart can achieve.