One man against all odds….

Can someone do everything right in this world? What is the qualification or what kind of parenting is needed to teach a young one right from the wrong? Well one just has to be human & have the determination of harmonious coexistence with Mother Nature as well as thier fellow creations. Read on about the phenomenal contribution for human kind by a single person, Jadav Molai Payeng, from a humble background. Positive energy of these kinds of souls is enough to keep the Universe pulsating.

It was 1979 & floods had washed a great number of snakes onto the sandbar of a remote region near Kokilamukh of Jorhat in the state of Assam, around 350 km from Guwahati. One day, after the waters had receded, while walking home to Aruna Chapri village of Majuli district, a 16 years old youngster from Mishing tribe found the sandbar dotted with the dead reptiles. It did not take much time for the smart tribal teenager Jadav to realize that the snakes had died on the sand in the heat, without any tree cover. The kind, helpless teenager sat down & wept over their lifeless forms. His young mind wondered today snakes & tomorrow the human race could perish & wanted to stop this carnage but how? He spoke to elders & said what if one day we all die like snakes? They smirked & said don’t be a fool that won’t happen & gave him 20 bamboo seedlings to plant on the sandbar. He religiously planted them on the dry sand after building a fence hoping one day they will grow big, it would be green, fertile & attract birds & animals.
Call from the Mother Nature was too strong for the young soul & once back home the young mind thought, I could not just ignore the situation like others. So what if nobody is interested to help me? I myself should try to do something. That was the turning point of his life & he never looked back. Meanwhile in 1980 when the social forestry division of Golaghat district launched a 5 years tree plantation scheme on 200 hectares at Aruna Chapori, about 5 km from Kokilamukh, he started working as a labourer. After the completion of the project, even after other workers left He chose to stay back.

Thus began the greatest journey of hope ever known to mankind, with a single seed of dream germinating in the beautiful mind of a single individual maturing into a gigantic tree against all the odds!! With the spirit & hope of seeing greenery &, birds & animals he started planting…. & planting… & planting… 35 years on & he is still planting. After all man is a creature of habit!!

He gave up schooling & willingly accepted a life of isolation, he started living on the sandbar & single handedly started planting seeds & seedlings on the sand bar & spending his days tending the burgeoning plants. His mission became his religion, he gladly chose Mother Nature as his teacher, sandbar as his class room & trees as his classmates. For him the mantra was: “Tvameva Mata cha Pita Tvameva, Tvameva Bandhu cha Sakha Tvameva, Tvameva Vidya Dravinam Tvameva, Tvameva Sarvam Mama Deva Deva” {Nature is everything – mother, father, brother, friend, knowledge, wealth, etc. Everything is connected & is inseparable from her. The word ‘dravinam’ in the beautiful Sanskrit has several meanings as: wealth, strength, valour, gold, wish, the basic material from which things are made}. There was nobody to help him but the determined young man would not give up. He proved that with true dedication anyone can turn from ordinary to extraordinary & unique. The proverbial say “God helps those who help themselves” proved right in his case.
Jadav quoted to a news reporter: I then decided to grow proper trees. I collected & planted them. I also transported red ants from my village, & was stung many times. Red ants change the soil’s properties. That was an experience, Jadav said, laughing. Soon, there were a variety of flora & fauna which burst in the sandbar, including endangered animals like the one-horned rhino & Royal Bengal tiger (at least five tigers, one of which also bore two cubs). Besides apes & several varieties of birds, including vultures there are rabbits, deer, etc. After 12 years, we’ve seen vultures. Migratory birds, too, have started flocking here. “Deer & cattle have attracted predators, claimed Jadav. The forest has become a migratory route & a sanctuary to a herd of around 100 elephants, which generally stay for around six months & often destroys the crops. They have given birth to 10 calves in the forest in recent years. There were times when the angry villagers beat up Jadav blaming the destruction of their paddy fields by the elephant’s. Villagers, whose homes had been destroyed by the pachyderms, wanted to cut down the forest, but Jadav dared them to kill him instead. Jadav has dedicated his life to the upkeep & growth of the forest. He treats the trees & animals like his own children. Seeing this, we, too, decided to not to trouble him, added an elderly villager.

The unparallel achievements of this gentle soul is far too greater & beyond belief/comprehension. Yet it’s a fact – that’s what the modern world seeks… the so called proof. After a few years, the sandbar in the middle of the Brahmaputra was transformed into a bamboo thicket. More than 35 years on, once-barren sandbar became a sprawling forest covering an area of 1,360 acres (550-hectare of which about 300 hectares of bamboo), rich in bio diversity attracting many animals & birds. It’s now home to thousands of varieties of trees including valcol, arjun, ejar, goldmohur, koroi, moj & himolu & an astounding diversity of wildlife.

In one of the interview Jadav said locals recently killed a rhino which was seen in his forest at another forest in Sibsagar district. He revealed that he lost around 100 of his own cows & buffaloes (his only source of income) to the tigers in the forest, but blames the people who carry out large scale encroachment & destruction of forests as the root cause of the plight of wild animals. Jadav talks like a trained conservationist. “Nature has made a food chain; why can’t we stick to it? Who would protect these animals if we, as superior beings, start hunting them? Jadavs enthusiasm never ends there & is ready to manage the forest in a better way & to go to other places of the state to start a similar venture. Now his aim is to spread his forest to another sand bar inside of Brahmaputra. He is both the seed & tree of hope, desire & in true sense an inspiration to the mankind. You are right Mr.Shahrukh Khan when you kept repeating like a trained parrot; “don’t under estimate the power of common man” in the movie Chennai Express!!
Jadav, nicknamed forest man of India, who is now 51, still lives in the forest sharing a small hut with his wife Binita & three children (two sons & a daughter) & makes a living selling cow & buffalo milk. They support & help Jadav in his mission. Asked if he regretted giving up school, calmly said: Five of my classmates/bench-mates have become engineers; one is a sales tax superintendent, all of them well settled in city living in lavish flats. But I still live in jungle where I have always lived yet I am the happiest man in the world. Again calmly adds there could be no one happier than me.

He has a message to the world: says the education should be changed in such a way that each student has to plant two trees. Thus they would produce their own oxygen. If they are unable to do so, they should fail their exam. He hopes that people in Indian & everywhere starts making this planet greener. Then it would be a very beautiful world to live in. I am sure of it says he.

The locals call the place ‘Molai Kathoni’ (Molai’s santuary) after its creator’s nickname/pet-name. It took him more than 30 years to be recognized by the government. Luckily the forest department also named it “Molai woods” instead of naming after a politician sitting thousands of kilometers away or after a so called explorer who cannot even spell the local word!! What would you call him a wild life activist or environmental activist or a true conservator of forest or a gifted son of Mother Nature? In this chaotic world where everyone is screaming & attending conference after conference on global warming & ending without any solution, surely farsighted Payeng is a beacon of hope & perhaps definitely deserves world honour more than anyone!! Solutions are what we seek & constancy is what we need. He surely fits in the imaginary (which almost seemed real to readers) character of Elzeard Bouffier created by the French author Jean Giono 1953 when he wrote the epic tale The Man Who Planted Trees with the intention of making his readers fall in love with trees.
The whole saga of Jadav’s extraordinary feat was unknown to outside world till 2008. It was when forest department officials went to the area in search of a herd of about 100 elephants that had retreated into the forest after a marauding spree in the village of Aruna Chapori, about 1.5 kms from the Molai forest, they were surprised to find such a large dense forest in the middle of a sandbar. Elephants also had destroyed Payeng’s hutment & it was then that Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Gunin Saikia met Payeng for the first time. ACF Saikia said to reports that it is perhaps the world’s biggest forest in the middle of a river. We’re amazed at Payeng who has been at it for 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.” There are proposals to declare the area a conservation reserve under provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Writing about him brings me great joy & his feat an enigma, beyond my perception & understanding capacity. I think, this simplest of the simple, humblest of the humble indeed the greatest soul to walk on earth in both 20th & 21st century. He proved to the world what a single beautiful mind can do even without the use of guns, bombs & looting. Perhaps one day when he is gone the signature left behind will be worth more than million Nobel prizes!! A true soldier in his own rights &, both the cause & effect of his mission, a mission impossible to others. May god bless him with long healthy life. Makes me wonder if he is a freak accident of creation or a cursed heavenly gardener on earth?? Living on the banks of Brahmaputra, He truly is a Brahmaputra (son of Brahma). “I would gladly say it only happens in India”!! Hope one day every Indian will feel the same way as I feel – truly honoured – just to hear about him & will be cherished as he truly deserved to be.

He was awarded President’s award by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who spoke to him for one & a half hours. On April 22nd 2012, Jadav Payeng was honoured at a public function arranged by the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawarlal Nehru University for his remarkable achievement. He shared his experience of creating a forest in an interactive session. A locally made film documentary The Molai Forest, produced by Jitu Kalita who lives near Payeng’s house was featured. In the month of October 2013, he was honoured at Indian Institute of Forest Management during their annual event Coalescence. Jadav Payeng & Molai forest have been featured by Aarti Shrivastava in 2013 film documentary Foresting life. Jadav Payeng & Molai forest have been featured in William Douglas McMaster’s 2013 film documentary Forest Man.

3 thoughts on “One man against all odds….

  1. Dear blogger,
    It is great achievement by Mr.Jadav Molai. What he attained is not only remarkable but also unimaginable. I salute this great man. May God bless him with long healthy life.
    Thank you for writing and bringing to our notice. Good luck for your upcoming project and keep writing.

  2. Dear Blogger,

    It is great achievement by Mr.Jadav Molai. What he attained is not only remarkable but also unimaginable. I salute this great man. May God bless him with long healthy life.
    Thank you for writing and bringing to our notice. Good luck for your upcoming project and keep writing.

  3. Very inspiring tale… At this age & time, such a story goes to reinstate one’s faith in mankind; he can leave the world with the satisfaction of having lived his life to the fullest; What more can anyone ask for?!


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