He didn't care if his wife and the rest of the village see him as a crazy man.
Laungi Bhuiya, a man from the village of Kothilwa in India’s eastern state of Bihar, has a noble dream – to bring water to the people in his village. To accomplish this, he did the seemingly impossible – dig a canal through the land so that water can flow from the hills to his village.
Thus started Bhuiya’s digging, which went on for an astonishing long time of almost 30 years. His zealous mission earned him both admiration and scorn from the people in his village.
His own wife, Ramrati Devi, called him “mad.” She tried everything to dissuade him from his mission, even to the point of denying him food, but she failed.
“I was always angry with him for not caring about the children. There was never any money, never enough food,” she said.
Using only rudimentary tools, Bhuiya spent years digging through Kothilwa’s barren landscape. After nearly three decades, he was able to create a three-kilometer canal.
Almost everyday, oblivious to the taunts of the other villagers, Bhuiya would head up to the hills to dig.
His efforts earned him the reputation as the “madman.” His family even took him to the healers in the village to get exorcised.
Kothilwa is a poor village home to almost 750 people, most of them Dalits, who belong to the bottom of India’s caste system. They were formerly called the “untouchables.” These people live in mud huts and depend on a couple of wells for drinking water.
They don’t have enough water for irrigation, therefore making them unable to grow wheat and vegetables to support themselves. This prompted Bhuiya to find a way to bring more water to his village.
Eventually, the media learned about the story of this determined man. When a local journalist, Jai Prakash, was in the village to cover a story, Bhuiya approached him and asked if he could show him the canal he was working on.
During this time, Bhuiya was forced to stop digging, just a kilometer away from his village.
“He had dug a minor canal for irrigation. He said it took him nearly 30 years, so we went on my motorcycle to see it,” Prakash said.
When Prakash’s story came out in a local Hindi newspaper, it was a breakthrough for Bhuiya. Kothilwa was then besieged by journalists, social workers, activists, and political leaders, all wanting to meet Bhuiya.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, Bihar’s former Chief Minister, visited Bhuiya and promised him that his efforts will be recognized by the Indian president.
Later on, he was brought to an auto showroom in Gaya, where he was presented with a tractor, a gift from Anand Mahindra, chairman of the auto giant Mahindra Group.
Indian pharmaceutical company Mankind Pharma also gave Bhuiya a check of 100,000 rupees ($1,365) for his efforts.
The villagers’ attitude towards Bhuiya has changed as well. They asked Manjhi for a road and hospital to be built in the village and named after Bhuiya.
His son, Brahmdeo, said: “We used to think he is possessed. Things have changed now. We have some money we got because of his work.”
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