There is this unstoppable wheel, with spokes of goodness, will power and courage in it, which spins and brings forth many characters whose stories transcend time to mark its presence. It did when it turned to show Dashrath Manjhi, the mountain man of our country, who had carved a path deep through a mountain, only with a chisel and a hammer. This time, the wheel had turned to showcase ‘The Manjhi’ of Kerala, Sasi Gangadharan: a 59 years old coconut tree climber, who hails from Vilappisala, a suburb of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Since he was able to walk, Sai always wanted to climb trees. He started climbing coconut trees at the age of 8, took it up as a livelihood in the later part of his life, bought a small patch of land with his savings and built a house on it. Life was climbing to new heights for our determined tree climber. But, as time has proved, Fate doesn’t always work according to our plans. One fine day, Sasi while on a coconut tree, suffered a stroke and came crashing down. The accident left his Right arm and leg paralyzed. Tragedies followed this horrific accident. Sasi, unable to move properly, was not able to contribute for the family. His children left their education and started working to support their family. “It took years for me to even stand up, but I wanted to become normal again so I taught myself how to walk,” Sasi explained to a leading daily.
Sasi could no longer accept to sit idle and feel helpless on his condition. So he decided to ask for a three-wheeled support vehicle from the village Panchayat. He thought that the vehicle will help him in starting a small business of selling Lottery tickets and might bring in some money for his family. To his surprise, his request for help was discarded and was shockingly met with mockery.
“Do you want to fly the scooter over the hill, blocking your house,” one of the officers ridiculed him.
For almost ten years, Sasi knocked on all doors to get a road to his house. He filed numerous petitions to the concerned authorities, but no aid came to his side. The Panchayat office blatantly said that they can’t build a road for him as it requires permission and neither can they give him a vehicle as he didn’t have a license to drive one. After living as a semi-paralyzed person for 18 years, in the year 2013, seeing all his requests falling on deaf ears, Sasi decided to build his way through the mountain using a pickaxe and a shovel.
“Initially, I got injured many times. I couldn’t maintain my balance when I swung the pickaxe, and I fell often. But eventually I managed to gain control over my body,” he told the daily. Sasi worked for six hours every day for the next three years. The result of his grit and determination was a two hundred meters long and a two meters wide kaccha road. Ommanna, his wife, said that “Sasi did all this by himself, people only made fun of him, and they used to complain that Sasi is illegally selling the mud which he was digging out.”
On completion of the road, the neighbors, who were earlier against Sasi’s efforts, started showing support. Sudha, Sasi’s neighbour, said that “I used to worry seeing him digging for hours but now I’m grateful to him as we no longer have to climb that plateau.” Sasi who didn’t even bothered that he was setting an example by accomplishing such a Herculean task, simply said that “the old route to my house was from above the plateau, I used to slip and fall, then I thought of making this way which will help me and others too. I never thought about when I would finish the work. I just wanted to have the road built.”
Sasi and his wife are contended to have been able to fight for their dignity, though Sasi’s wife is a little anxious now and worries for their future. “I begged him not to dig like this. If something happened to him again, we don’t have any money to treat him, we are heavily in debt. Now everyone talks about the road being built, but what about us?” she said. “It will take me just one more month to finish digging this road but the Panchayat is yet to give me my three-wheel vehicle,” Sasi said forcing a smile through teary eyes.
Although, many problems still persist, Sasi has showed us what sheer determination and true grit can achieve. He has literally showed us that the secret to build a ROAD to your success lies in your own efforts.
Alveena Ahmed | TOC
The Optimist Citizen is India’s First Purely Positive Newspaper (in print). Subscribe to The Optimist Citizen Newspaper starting at just Rs. 350 per year.
Help us sustain and spread Positive Journalism!