Yesterday as curtains came down on the first season of Satyameva Jayate, Aamir Khan took the example of a man lesser known “Dashrath Manji” to portray the strength of individual will and persistence. I first heard of this man in October 2009 from a little girl of 9th Standard as she prepared herself for a district level oratorical competition. I was touched not just by the phenomenal delivery but the story itself. A touching story of greatness so conveniently missed, a story of will, a story of perseverance, a story that everyone intending to do something different needs to read. So I had made available the speech verbatim for a wider audience later. The story of the man had as great an impact on me yesterday as it had 3 years earlier. Hence once again here I am sharing the speech of this little girl with all of you.. .
“17th August, 2007. Dashrath Manjhi died. I read this news on page 10 of the Times of India, and, guess what the front page featured that day? Salman Khan & John Abraham, today’s role models, chorusing at a meeting in New Delhi – “Work hard and you could have our strength and biceps”. Huh! If only you had dumbbells to build the inner strength, not just the biceps. Contrast this with Gandhiji, the half naked scarecrow framed fakir, his frail frame housing an indomitable spirit which could stop an entire nation in its tracks.
If Gandhiji had been alive he would have proclaimed Dashrath Manji to be one of his ilk. This poor , illiterate outcaste labourer from Bihar had a cast iron spirit. When his wife died at a young age from an illness that plagues most of India – no, not cancer or TB, not heart disease either, but inaccessible healthcare, he decided to turn adversity into an opportunity. His wife could have been saved – if only – he could have cut through a hill and taken her to a hospital, just 10 kms as a crow flies. Circumventing the hill took 50 kms, which on a bullock cart meant a death sentence for even a not so serious ailment.
In grief, he petitioned the government, pleaded with the bureaucracy and knocked on all possible doors to have a road cut through the hill so that his wife’s fate should not befall others with a similar plight. The local collector rebuffed his repeated pleas… and added sarcastic insult to bereaved injury by saying that if he was so desperate to help others, he could do the task himself…… Callousness and impoliteness have their silver lining. Dashrath Manjhi took this crude remark as a challenge and decided to do the job himself.
Ridicule, indifference and taunts were the gifts from his fellow villagers for his mission, and if you were in their shoes, even you would have been amused. How can a man cut through a mountain with just a hammer and chisel as his tools!! A half starved man at that! But Dashrath Manjhi was an ordinary man with an extraordinary spirit. He sold a few precious belongings to buy the hammer and chisel, shifted his house to the base of the mountain and after his day’s work as a labourer he chiseled away at the hill.
It took about 5 years for the ridicule to turn into grudging admiration… and another 5 years to transform itself into help in the form of food and water and an occasional hand to chip away the stones. Dashrath manjhi’s love for his wife was producing unimaginable results. In about 10 years time, people began to notice a change in the shape of the hill. Instead of a defiant rockface there was a depression in the middle and in a period of 22 years, the mountain had been scaled,…. not by climbing it,… but by cutting through! Dashrath Manjhi’s love’s labor gave birth to a CLEAR FLAT PASSAGE through the hill measuring about 16 FEET wide, reducing a 50 km circuitous route to a mere 8 km.
The press had labeled him as a modern day Shah Jahan, though I personally feel that by doing so, they did a great disservice to his memory. The magnificence of Shah Jahan’s homage to his wife fills us with a sense of awe at the craftsmanship of 22 thousand artisans, while Dashrath Manjhi’s homage in the form of 22yrs of single handed hard labor makes us hold a mirror to ourselves, showing us the EVERESTIAN efforts our body and soul are capable of. To me Dashrath Manjhi’s abiding message is that when you expire, you should inspire….inspire others to make a difference!”
Aamir Khan and this little girl have done their bit to get the story to us – now what are we going to do about the learnings?