Every morning for twenty-two long years, a feeble man, barefooted and clad in frugal clothing, carried his hammer and chisel, and walked two kilometers to a hill of solid rock only to nick at it, bit by bit.
Just as this would leave anyone reading this bemused, so were the villagers of Gahlor Ghati in Bihar. The man who dedicated his life to this strange cause? Dasrath Manjhi. So, what is Dasrath’s story? In the early 1960s Dasrath’s wife fell gravely ill and died before he could get her to the nearest hospital, because a large 360-foot long, 25-foot high and 30-foot wide hill came in the way of the shortest possible route between his village and the town where the hospital is located. Helplessly, he watched her die while he carried her through the 19-km path to Wazirganj which they were forced to take before she could get any sort of medical help. Broken by the death of his wife, he resolved to create a memorial for her – one that might not go down in history books or be an awe-inspiring monument for tourists, but would nonetheless be an eternal reminder of a poor man’s love for his wife.
Undeterred by the mockery and comments of the onlookers and villagers alike, Dasrath Manjhi began his task, epitomizing the human spirit’s capacity to endure despite all odds. Time and age did not wither his spirits, and every day single-handedly, with undiluted determination he would set out to make a road out of the mountain, just so that no one would ever have to lose their loved ones because of a lack of medical aid. It took him not five, not ten, but twenty-two long years to complete this Herculean task.
Today, the people of Gahlor Ghati feel both grateful and proud to remember him as ‘Dasrath Baba’, a man who gave more than two decades of his life to save so many others. In this rural region of Bihar, where casteism is still prevalent, but for this feat, Dasrath Manjhi would have never been given this title or any form of respect. So much was this man’s humility that he did not even bother to raise his voice when the magnitude of his work was understated in the record books.
As a mark of true respect, a proper road has been laid in the place where he carved out the hill and a hospital has also been erected in Gahlor; both named after him. Sadly, Dasrath could not live to see these symbols of gratitude. Dasrath Manjhi finally got the recognition he deserved after his death when he was given a state funeral in the presence of the Chief Minister with full observation of the funeral rites of his community. Indeed, a man that moved not just mountains, but hearts as well!