Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Making a Difference: The Real-Life "Star-thowers"

A couple of years back, I had blogged the "Starthrower" story by Lauren Eisley, which Yawar, a friend, had sent to me.

It was about Making a Difference: here is a short version:

"As the old man walked on the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was doing this. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish," countered the old man. "How can your effort make any difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said."

... It was a fine story, and also a story about finding one's own beach and one's own starfish... and make a difference

But then, someone wrote to me that yes, the story is nice, and very inspiring, etc... but, where are the real life "star-thowers"?... realistically, what can one do to really make a difference... leave apart people like Gandhi, Baba Amte, etc.,

...which was a dampener of sorts. It was a valid point, even though it did not fit with my intuitive understanding...

So today, thanks to Annie, it was good to find these two stories of the real-life "starthrowers":

1. Old Man Digs Pond in 7 Years, Brings Water To His Village

Manikpur (Barh), May 29: "This is the story of an old man and the pond... It took Kamleshwari Singh all of seven years to dig one in his village, 80 km from Patna. Being too weak and too old to use a spade, he used a trowel.

People dismissed him as “demented” and children laughed and called him talabi baba.

But now that the 62-year-old has actually dug the pond single-handed, people are streaming into the village to take a look at his handiwork.

An impressed sub-divisional magistrate of Barh, Vandana Preyasi, said: “We will soon felicitate him and recommend his name for a state government award.”...

...Seven years ago, unknown assailants had gunned down Singh’s 26-year-old son Siyaram. Several false cases, claims the old man, were lodged against him, forcing him to sell much of his farmland.

While the second son went off in search of work to Punjab, the old man was saddled with two women — his elder son’s widow and the younger son son’s wife — and their children.

It was then that the crestfallen Singh woke up one midnight and resolved to “do something”. He went to his plot near the house and started digging with the help of a spade.

His hands gave up after an hour. But Singh did not....

...The 60-foot-by-60-foot pond, with a depth of 25 feet, is “almost ready” though the scorching summer sun has forced the water level to recede to less than five feet. The rain, Singh hopes, will fill the pond again and provide a perennial source of irrigation to the village, which is barely 12 km away from the river but does not have even a single irrigation canal to water its land.

The pond, lined by 40 trees bearing mangoes, jackfruit and black berries, and some teak trees, has become the favourite haunt of villagers who are now eager to lend a helping hand... Etc."


2. The Grit of a Man: Dasrath Manjhi

NEW DELHI: "Dashrath Manjhi's claim to fame has been the herculean task of singlehandedly carving a 360-ft long, 25-ft high and 30-ft wide road by cutting a mountain for 22 years.

But, today for this native of Gehlor (near Gaya in Bihar), there is a more daunting task at hand as he strives to get for his community, the Musahars, a respectable place in the society. Considered as social outcasts, Musahars are traditionally associated with various social stigmas such as eating rats and the belief that they are very liberal with drinking liquor. They are identified as people who survive on grains gathered from hideouts of field rats. As most of them are working as labourers, Musahars today account for the what can be called as the 'poorest of the poor' in the society.

With a slender frame of a man in his late seventies, diminutive and dressed in simple white kurta and dhoti, Dashrath Manjhi hardly fits the stereotyped image of a superhuman. Agonized at the suffering of his wife, who broke her earthen pot and hurt herself while crossing the narrow pathway round the mountain, Manjhi started working on the road that reduced the distance between Atri and Vazirganj subdivisions from 50 kms to 10 kms.

He is today considered as a living legend by his community. But for Dashrath Manjhi it was more than a daredevil action or an act of eccentricity. As he initiates another struggle to emancipate his people, Manjhi derives strength from his long, solitary life of 22 years that he spent in making the road."


Ajit Chouhan said...

Thanks for the great post Madhukar.

I'm sure you'll be interested in reading these posts.

Supratim said...

Thank you for posting these stories. Very uplifting.