The Mountain Man

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Dashrath derived his name from the confused king in the epic tale described in Ramayana but, put simply, he was the village lunatic. The name was conferred to him not in vain. For all he did every day was collect his decrepit tools and hammer at his favorite rocky mountains.

Be it a sunny day or cold foggy mornings, one would find him doing the same thing over and over again. Some benevolent souls brought him some food to consume out of pity. He would relish the break and get back on his meaningless task of breaking the mountain rocks.

As years passed by the villagers realized that his act was doing something to the tough face of the mountain. The expanse of the hills were reducing. Rumors flew that the lunatic had a wild idea that he wants to raze them all! This elicited more laughter, but some resolute men started believing when they saw little progress.

Quite expectantly, the citizens who called him fools decided to help him out. They were doubtful inside but the determination of the lunatic, even if brought on by madness, gave them strength. The mountains were after all a huge inconvenience because they stood between Wazirganj and Atri. Their presence made the commute fifty-kilometer long as travelers had to pick a path that looped around them.

One fine morning, after twenty-two years of Dashrath's hard work, the 100-ft high mountains found a one-kilometer long read tearing through them. The feat caught attention and the government was shamed into helping developing the road. Dashrath was given a reward of five-acres of land that he donated for creation of a new hospital.

His image of the lunatic was further cleared when reporters learned that Dashrath had lost his wife to an accident in 1959. She could have lived if she'd have received medical attention in time, but Dashrath couldn't get her to the other village in time. It was because of the mountains that he couldn't help her live. And, grieving the loss, that was the point when he launched his personal crusade against them.

From 1960 to 1982, Dashrath Manjhi worked selflessly for the welfare of people who mocked his efforts. In 2007 he died of cancer in AIIMS. The hospital he dreamed of will be given his name. So will be the road he aspired to build.

What we must wonder is do we have the capacity to love somebody so much that losing them would literally make us break down mountains? What would an uneducated man who was tied to his life-partner through an arranged marriage know about love and society?

Being in anguish for all those years probably put him in a space that we can't understand. Maybe he was a truly emancipated aspirant in a land of jokers where currently one political party that wants to bring about a revolution constantly ends up disappointing the people who support it.

The man who moved a mountain.
Anyway, please do read about Dashrath Manjhi more here. I hope his story makes a dent, if his dent in the mountain isn't enough. And if you liked my effort in bringing him up, please share along.

In closing, I'd like to add that there's a movie about the mountain man in the pipes. It's on hold currently. But what's amazing is that his role will be played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. If that's not cheery, what is!

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