For the Love of His Wife, He Changed the Lives of Many in His Village
In 1959, Dashrath Manjhi lived with his wife, Falguni, and son, Bhagirath, in Gehlaur village .
At that time, Gehlaur was one of the poorest villages in India. It did not have roads, schools, or hospitals.
Even clean drinking water was scarce. To get it, women had to hike a 300-ft mountain that separated their village from the nearest river.
One day, Falguni was returning home from fetching water; but she tripped and broke her leg.
Dashrath found her writhing in pain, and he and his son carried her home.
The nearest hospital was 15 kilometres over the mountain, so carrying her on his shoulders would have been difficult.
Luckily, a neighbour donated his donkey cart, and they began their journey to the hospital. She was in so much pain, and her leg was swollen from hip to toe.
The shortest route by a donkey cart was a cattle track that meandered around the mountain range; and, using this route, the distance to the hospital was 70 km.
They got hospital several hours later, but she died before she could be attended to. Doctors said she had suffered internal bleeding, and a blood clot had interfered with the flow of oxygen to her brain. They also said if she had been brought to the hospital earlier, her life could have been saved.
Heartbroken, Dashrath did not want anyone else to suffer a similar fate; so he built a pass a through a nearby mountain that made his village more accessible.
The pass was 110 metres long, 8 metres deep, and 9 metres wide; but all he had was his hands, a chisel, and a hammer.
When, in 1960, he started digging, people laughed at him because they thought he had gone mad. They whispered to one another that the death of his wife had caused him depression.
Even government officials tried to stop him.
However, after 22 years of hammering and chiselling, he came face-to-face with his dream: the other side of the mountain.
When he completed it, in 1982, he became known as the Mountain Man.
His work shortened the distance from his village of Gehlaur to the hospital from 70 kilometres to just 15 kilometres. It also opened access to water, schools, and hospital to residents of 32 villages on his side of the mountain.
Asked about it, he said: "I was angry that it hurt my wife. If I didn't do it, no one could have done it."
The chief minister of Bihar state heard about what Dashrath had done, and he gave him 5 acres of land as a reward. However, Dashrath donated it to his village; and he asked the government to build a hospital on it.
He died of cancer in 2007; and in 2012, the government built a modern road to his area, and it paved the one he had built.
He was given a state funeral.