Day 19 – the colour of persistence and courage that left its mark on a mountain.
Several years ago I read about this man whose simple dedication and dogged determination helped him to carve a road through a mountain and cut the journey out of his village from a 70 kilometre (43 mile) trek to a mere one mile trip.
He was the poorest of the poor living in a tiny village which had no safe or proper way in or out, like so many other villages in India. A granite mountain ridge had to be circumnavigated on foot over rough dangerous terrain. His own wife slipped and fell while bringing him food and water when he was working away from home one day.
Her injuries were severe and she died because access to any medical help was an impossibility. In his grief this man decided to do something about the situation. He begged the local authorities to somehow build a road or mountain pass to cut down the arduous trip dramatically to the nearest town with better facilities. They refused to do anything.
He bought a hammer and chisel in exchange for three goats and started on the work himself. Over the course of the next twenty-two years he worked alone, splitting, cutting and chiselling away at the rock. Bit by bit and stone by stone, he achieved the unthinkable.
Towards the end of his task some of the villagers instead of mocking him, started to assist by taking him food and replacing his tools as they wore out. The pass he cut was 25 feet high, 30 feet wide and 360 feet long.
My mind is boggling now, over two decades of chipping his way through a mountain to help his community and those in the surrounding villages, so that what happened to his wife need never happen again.
His story apparently did not end there, as his road was only just passable for emergency vehicles and for villagers to have easier access to markets on the other side of the ridge. It really needed to be paved and finished off properly to avoid permanent damage from weather and the passage of vehicles. He endured many more years of effort and rejection before his incredible work was recognised by his state government and the chief minister. Eventually the pass was paved and properly completed.
Dashrath Manjhi died back in 2007 but a friend of his was inspired to set up an employment training centre for young people in the village so that despite their poverty they have an opportunity to be educated and to find better jobs, particularly focusing on young women so they would not get married too young.
When I am facing tough decisions or situations that drag me down, I try to remember that I have never had to face a mountain as big as he did, with minimal tools and no assistance. I thought of the man who moved a mountain again today.