By Aamir Khan
July 30, 2012
The future of our nation depends on whether we decide to be determined followers of dreams or cynical naysayers
What can I do alone? I am just one among 1.2 billion. Even if I change, what good will it do? What about the rest? Who will change everyone? First get everyone else to change then I too will change. These are some of the most negative thoughts I have heard all through my life. The story of Dashrath Manjhi is a fitting reply to all these statements. It tells us what one man can achieve. It tells us about the power of one. It tells us that man can indeed move mountains.
Gehlor, a small village in Bihar, was surrounded by rocky hills. The villagers had to travel more than 50 km to reach the nearest town, which was only five km away but the path blocked by a rocky hill. One of the villagers, Dashrath Manjhi, decided one day that he would cut a pass through the hill. He sold his goats, bought a hammer and a chisel, and started hammering away at the hill. Everyone laughed at him. They ridiculed him, dissuaded him, and told him it was not possible. He refused to be swayed and kept at it. It took him 22 years to cut a road through the hill but he did it.
For a moment let us imagine what he must have gone through on day-one of his attempt. One man with a hammer and a chisel against a mountain! How many cubic inches of rock could he have broken on the first day? What did he feel while walking back home that evening? How far did he get at the end of week-one? What were his thoughts then? No doubt the task would have seemed even more impossible at the end of the first week. What did he feel when people made fun of him and discouraged him? What kept him going for 22 long years?
What you and I have to decide is, do we want to be like Dashrath Manjhi, or do we want to be like the villagers who tried to dissuade him? And there is a clear choice before us. What he was attempting to do was for everyone’s benefit. Still, instead of joining him, his fellow villagers made fun of him. So, should we be like those villagers or should we live our lives like Dashrath Manjhi, who, with single-minded determination, continued to do what he believed in? Each of us has to ask ourselves this question, and in our answers lie the reality of our future. In our answers lies the answer to the following questions as well: Do I want to contribute to nation building? Do I want to be a believer or do I want to be a critic? Do I want to follow my dreams relentlessly and without compromise, or do I want to be a cynical, discouraging naysayer?
I believe in India. I believe in the people of India. I believe that each and every Indian loves his/her country. I believe that India is changing. I believe that India wants to change. I believe in the dream that our forefathers saw when they fought for Independence. A dream that they wrote down in the Preamble to our Constitution:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; …
There are many who say that this dream is dead, but I don’t agree. While it is true that it has not been achieved, it is equally true that it is not entirely dead. Even today there are thousands of Indians who live by this dream. Many have spent their lives upholding this dream. Most of them are perhaps not even aware that in living their lives in the way that they are, they are upholding the Constitution of India, the dream that our forefathers saw.
I think somewhere along the way too many of us have become a little too clever, a little too practical, a little too cynical, a little too materialistic, a little too selfish. Maybe we need to let go a little. Allow a little space in our hearts for hope, for idealism, for belief, for faith, for trust, for innocence and… for a little madness. If one Dashrath Manjhi can move a mountain, imagine what 120 crore Dashrath Manjhis can do.
My journey of Satyamev Jayate is coming to an end. But I would like to believe that this is not the end, but is, in fact, a beginning. And in this hope-filled moment of a beginning, I would like to bow my head in a prayer that was first expressed by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action —
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Jaihind. Satyamev Jayate.
Aamir Khan is an actor. This is the last of his weekly columns for The Hindu.