Not content to see his village abandoned to become a ghost town, a lone father set about the arduous task of blazing a passable trail — roughly five miles through rocky, mountainous terrain — just so his sons could attend the nearest school.
After all the remaining villagers left Gumsahi, in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, for its isolation and lack of necessities, Jalandhar Nayak, who has never attended school, gathered only a crowbar, pickaxe, and chisel, and proceeded to tackle the enormous endeavor — without any assistance, whatsoever.
And work he did — eight hours, every day, for two full years — until a mountain path connected his family to the nearest village with a school.
“My children find it difficult to walk on the narrow and stony path while going to their school,” Nayak told Kalinga TV. “Often I saw them stumbling against the stones and I decided to carve a road through the mountain so that they can walk freely.”
Hauling and chiseling away at rocks along what would be the route from the nearly-abandoned village to its nearest neighbors — although a Herculean chore — managed to escape the notice of locals and the Indian government until just two days ago, according to the Hindustan Times. Once Nayak’s self-constructed mountain route — incidentally, of meticulous enough quality to be suitable for automobile traffic, according to reports — garnered significant attention in the media, the flabbergasted manager of a government fund dedicated to development in rural areas granted the 45-year-old pay retroactively for the tireless effort.
“Nayak’s effort and determination to cut mountains to build a road left me spellbound,” Brundha D told the press, as quoted by the Times. “He will be paid … for all the days he has worked.”
Further, RT reports, “Apart from financial support, Nayak will also get assistance from laborers to complete the construction work, the report added. ‘The district collector has assured me [of help] to complete the construction of the road to my village,’ said Nayak, who sells vegetables to earn a living.”
An illiterate father,Jalandhar Nayak from Odisha has cut 8KM of mountain to make a road for his children to go to school . Now @Naveen_Odisha and @CMO_Odisha has offered help to him to complete the road. Its really an inspirational news . pic.twitter.com/3B3PXMrtl1
— Pradeep Rai (@pradeepraiindia) January 11, 2018
Nayak told the press he was “extremely happy” to be receiving the labor assistance needed to complete his project. Hopefully, he added, completion of the route would mean his sons would be able to trek home more often for visits from school.
Nayak has now requested the government provide electricity and drinking water to the village he refused to relinquish, although he emphasized he had not before requested that nor any other help from governmental or other agencies throughout his self-styled project.
Astonishingly, the father managed not to fell a single tree in the crafting of the route, according to local reporter Sibashakti Biswal, cited by the Daily Mail,
“I was impressed to find that he took great care to ensure that not a single tree was cut while building the road.”
Locals and the media branded Nayak the modern Dashrath Manjhi, dubbed the “mountain man,” who undertook a similar project to blaze a passable mountain route following the death of his wife, Falguni, who had fallen while embarking on the dangerous journey between towns and could not receive medical assistance in time. Manjhi’s project, however, took a full twenty-two years to complete — ultimately truncating the total route between his village and Gaya by 40 kilometers (24.85 miles).
Image: Twitter/Pradeep Rai.