“Only a life lived for others is worth living”.
This is the story of a selfless man named Jadav Payeng. This man achieved a feat which one could only dream of. He has single handedly created a forest covering 550 hectare over sand deposits on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra in Assam. Locals call the place ‘Molai Kathoni’ (Molai’s woods) after Payeng’s pet name, Molai.
It all started way back in 1979 when heavy floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. After the waters had receded, Payeng, only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles and that was the turning point of his life. “The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested,” says Payeng, now 47.
THE LABOR OF HOPE
Leaving his education and home, he started living on the sandbar. Payeng willingly accepted a life of isolation. He watered the plants morning and evening and pruned them. After a few years, the sandbar was transformed into a bamboo thicket. “I then decided to grow proper trees. I collected and planted them. I also transported red ants from my village, and was stung many times. Red ants change the soil’s properties. That was an experience,” Payeng says, laughing. Now the same area is a dense forest sprawling 1,360 acre. The forest boasts of rich flora and fauna; it has some rare trees and many animals like rhinos, elephants and tigers are regular visitors. He created this forest out of a barren land with his sheer hard work and focus. He has dedicated 30 years of his life (he still continues) to the upkeep of the forest.
THE OBVIOUS SACRIFICE
Growing an entire forest just by himself not only needed superhuman efforts but Payeng also had to sacrifice a lot. For a living Payeng runs a dairy farm next to his hut which is within the forest he grew. He had lost nearly 100 buffaloes and cows to the big cats of the forest. Wild elephants have also damaged his house several times. However, Jadav Payeng is not feeling bad for it and says that the people who carry out large scale encroachment and destruction of forests are the root cause of the plight of wild animals, leading to the loss of their habitat and making them to prey on domestic animals.
Anyone who has planted a sapling and see it turn into an entire tree would know the feeling of happiness and contention attached with this. Imagine how much happiness Payeng must have to have grown an entire forest single handedly. Not everyone of us are capable to repeat even half the feat Payeng managed to achieve, but at least we can spread the word and make Payeng the “Real Hero” that he deserves to be. Who know there is 16 year old Payeng in the making in some corner of this world who can get inspired to carry the baton?