In a story of unbelievable grit and determination, a semi-paralyzed man in Kerala, India, spent three years digging a road straight through a small hill in front of his home, using only rudimentary tools.
63-year-old Melethuveettil Sasi has never even heard the story of Dashrath Manjhi, the famous Mountain Man of Bihar, who spent two decades carving a road through a mountain with just chisels and hammers, but he managed a very similar feat.
Sasi, who can barely walk and move his right hand, spent three years of his life digging a 200-meter dirt road through a hill in front of his house, so he could finally support his family again.
Sasi used to work as a coconut tree climber. He had been doing it since he was 15-years-old, but one day, 18 years ago, something went wrong during a routine climb and he fell to the ground from high up.
The right side of his body was paralyzed, and months went by before he was able to move his limbs again. His sons had to quit school in order to work and support the family, while their father was confined to a bed.
“I was good at climbing trees, but that day, somehow I slipped. One side of my body was paralyzed. My legs and hands were broken. I spent days and months in bed, not even able to move,” Sasi recently told The News Minute. “It took years for me to even be able to stand up. But I wanted to walk somehow. So I slowly taught myself to walk.”
After years of treatments and physiotherapy, Melethuveettil Sasi was able to walk again and regain some control over his right hand. He was still a disabled person, though, and would never climb a coconut tree again. But he still wanted to put food on his family’s table, so he one day came up with the idea of buying a three-wheeled scooter that he could ride to the nearby city of Thiruvananthapuram to sell lottery tickets. All he needed was some financial support from the local authorities.
He applied to the the Panchayat – local government – for some money to buy a scooter, but they just laughed in his face, asking him if he planned to fly it over the dirt hill in front of his home. Thinking that the problem was solvable, Sasi spent ten years writing petitions and knocking on doors, begging authorities to build a road to his house. No one helped him.
In 2013, after getting sick of rejections, Sasi decided to literally take things into his own hands and dig the road himself. He could only rely on simple tools like shovels and pickaxes, and his physical disability was going to make things infinitely more difficult, but he was determined to prove to himself and everyone else that it could be done.
“I never thought about when I would finish the work. I was just determined to have a road. Every day, I would begin my work at 5am, then stop at around 8.30am when the day began to get hot, and resume the work at around 3.30pm or 4pm in the evening and work till the sun went down,” the man recalled.
Despite his determination, Sasi ran into trouble soon after he started work. His semi-paralyzed limbs just weren’t up for hard labour, and he found it difficult to maintain his balance while digging.
“Initially, I got injured many times. I couldn’t balance well when I swung the pickax, and fell often. But eventually I managed to tame my body,” he proudly told The News Minute.
As word got out about what Melethuveettil Sasi was attempting to do, the locals started coming by just to laugh at him and tell him he was crazy, but he just kept on digging. As time passed and he made significant progress, some of his neighbors realized that he might just be able to pull it off, and instead of taunts, they started offering words of encouragement.
It took three long years of working an average of six hours a day for Sasi to dig through the whole hill, but it didn’t mean the end of his struggle. After vanquishing the tall hill, he had to face another difficult foe – an electricity pole that had to be moved a few feet in order to clear the way for his dirt road. But he needd the help of local authorities for that, and they hadn’t proven eager to help in the past.
“There is an electrical pole in the way that has to be removed to complete the road to my house,” Sasi said. “There is only few meters of work left. All the rest is done.”
But although the ambitious man had finished digging all the way to the pole late last year, the Panchayat was yet to do its part. Perhaps they just didn’t want to help Melethuveettil Sasi buy the three-wheeled scooter he needed to be self-reliant, or maybe they just didn’t care, but after the disabled man’s story went viral online, pressure from the public forced their hand, and they had no choice but to move the obstacle.
The best part was that, in the end, Sasi didn’t even need any money from the local authorities. People on the internet pitched in and were able to buy a three-wheeled scooter for the poor man, as a gift.