Here are two recent news items from India.

Dashrath Manjhi's claim to fame has been the Herculean task of single handedly carving a 360-ft long, 25-ft high and 30-ft wide road by cutting a mountain for 22 years. 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.  Today this native of Gehlor (near Gaya in Bihar), is engaged in a more daunting task of getting his community considered as social outcasts, a more respectable place. 

There is another similar story.  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 60 foot-by-60-foot pond single-handed, people are streaming into the village to take a look at his handiwork.

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.  He took up a trowel, a khurpi, used by gardeners, and found himself comfortable with it. Since then, for the last seven years, he has been digging virtually non-stop, with breaks for food and sleep.

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 and dispense free advice.

The moral of these news items is easy to grasp.  Nothing is impossible for a person with a burning desire.  Once the task is done, recognition comes automatically, even if not sought.

But till the task is done, it is mostly a lonely struggle against impossible odds and social ridicule and opposition.

In Sanskrit there is a very good stanza which says that below average people do not start a venture out of fear of difficulties; average people start something but leave it in the face of obstacles; the best of them complete the undertaking despite difficulties and failures.