In this midst of election fever that sweeps Bihar I randomly remembered a Greek tale that I had heard many years back. And like every other Greek tale this was also a story of love, valor and determination. Of words of courage that were transformed into action. And like every other Greek story it had a sad end.
I first heard this story when I first came to Patna in 1997. And the story goes like this.
There was a young man who lived in a village. He was a frail built man with not much ambition but to live a simple happy life with his beautiful wife. He used to earn his bread while working as a farmer. And whenever it would rain, he and his beautiful wife would sing local love songs that would enthral the whole village.
Every morning he would arise and cross the huge mountain that separated his village and the small piece of land on which he cultivated vegetables. It was a treacherous pass with high raised sharp rocks. This bed of black rocks would become even more dangerous during rain as people would slip and devoid of any medical facility would be disabled for life.
One day her wife who was bringing lunch for him slipped and fractured her ankle. And that day this hero of ours decided that the mountain that had caused hurt to her wife will have to go.
And he sold his goat to buy a hammer, a chisel and a rope to chisel the mountain away. And he started working, day and night, ignoring the voices that called him insane.
He hammered and hammered and this went on for twenty two years. And when he finally finished he had excavated a 360 feet long, 30 feet high and a 25 feet wide passage. Due to the carving out of this new passage the distance between his village and the neighbouring village was reduced from 75 km to 1 km. Yeah you read it right, from seventy five to one.
And then one day this man died. As another Greek story of love, courage and determination ended without much fanfare, just like the many other fictitious stories. But this story is different.
The hero in this story was no Greek, but an Indian. And this was not a tale of fiction.
Dasrath Manjhi was a SC (Mushar, rat eating family). And he was born in a village of Gaya in Bihar. And it was sometimes in 1960 when he was still in his 20s that his wife slipped and it was on that day he decided that he would move that mountain.
And it was in 1982 that he chiselled that mountain away. All with a hammer and a chisel.
He died in 2007, long after his wife had passed away. He died amongst tall claims made by political leaders who saw him as a good investment to bank on. While he was alive, leaders visited him and made sure that this visit was publicized as it would mean a good impact on the backward class.
A movie was made on his deeds. But he himself died as a common man.
Promises that were made during his time still remain unfulfilled. Still his family continues to live in poverty and still there is no sign of the hospital that was promised by the state government that would be made in his name.
I am sure that when he decided to break the mountain he never had any intention that he should become famous. He chiselled those mountains because his wife broke her ankle. He made her a promise that he will remove those mountains.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that human deeds of such higher degree was born out of such small reason.
It’s even harder to believe that we still live in a society where some huge, painstaking promises are fulfilled by an individual while some less difficult ones are forgotten by the state.
But then if they would have been fulfilled then this tale wouldn’t have qualified to be called as a Greek tale.