After facing any sort of humiliation, it’s hard to keep your emotions in check. Pointing a finger, shifting blame, and letting your anger guide you is all too easy. What’s impressive, though, is when someone can redirect those bad feelings into something positive.
When upper-caste elites denied one man’s wife water from a well, it would have been simple —albeit stupid — to become violent. Instead, he set out to do something that would change his village forever, even though everyone told him he was only wasting his time…
It takes a certain level of self-control to channel humiliation into something positive. Yet, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, that’s precisely what Bapurao Tajne set out to do after his wife was embarrassed by a group of upper-caste elites.
Like many societies across the world, India still operates on a caste system, and those in the upper levels hold a lot of power over those below them. This system has oppressed the less fortunate for countless generations.
The upper caste wields so much power that when Bapurao’s wife kneeled beside a well to fetch water for her thirsty family, the elites in the area did more than just refuse her. They also ridiculed and humiliated her.
So what did Bapurao do when he heard about the elites’ treatment of his wife? It would have been easy to do nothing or to lash out in anger against her aggressors…
Instead, he took all of his negative energy and anger, and he channeled it into something useful: he was going to dig a well for his own village to use!
Over the past two years, weaker monsoons caused widespread droughts across India. Conditions got so bad that the government sometimes resorted to rationing water.
At first, he wasn’t sure where to dig. Location was important, after all, because, in order for a well to be successful, it needs to be replenished by flowing water.
Bapurao closed his eyes, prayed, and honed in on the first sun-worn spot he saw. This would be the site of his new well. It had to be.
YouTube / myprivatecrusade
For eight hours every day, Bapurao worked his manual labor job, and when he returned home, he picked up a shovel and dug his well. It didn’t matter if he was tired or sore.
He did this second job for six hours each day, digging into the hard soil as much as he could. Of course, it didn’t matter how much hard work he put into the well if he picked out a poor location. Would Bapurao ever find water?
Days passed and Bapurao’s well grew wider and deeper, but still, no water filled it. The villagers — the would-be beneficiaries of Bapurao’s well — told him he was crazy.
Even his wife criticized him for wasting his time, until eventually, Bapurao doubted himself. Nonetheless, he kept digging. He just couldn’t give up.
“It is difficult to explain what I felt in those days,” Bapurao said to The Times of India. “I just wanted to provide water for my whole locality so that we did not have to beg for water from other castes.”
After 40 days of digging, he finally found success! He struck his shovel into the hard, rocky soil, and a small stream of water trickled out.
Perhaps even more astonished at the sight of water were Bapurao’s neighbors. They’d mocked and ridiculed him, but there was water, right before their eyes.
Lucky for them, Bapurao was a forgiving man, and he encouraged everyone to use the well! They were still his neighbors, after all.
As for Bapurao’s wife, whose hardships inspired this whole project? She was a bit ashamed of herself: “I did not help him a bit until he struck water,” she said.
MEA India File / Youtube
But now she’s by her husband’s side, explaining, “It is already 15 feet deep. Bapurao wants to dig five feet further. We are hoping our neighbors will help us.”
News of Bapurao’s well spread like wildfire. Soon enough, news stations and papers poured into town, trying to get a few words from the man with the shovel. Like they say, If you build it, they will come. And that is always the case when it comes to such a critical life source as water.
That struggle to have access to water was all too familiar to 45-year-old Nicholas Muchami from Muranga County, Kenya. Anyone you ask would tell you that he’s a hard worker, a good Samaritan, and a gentle soul. And he’s also the kind of man who can get his hands dirty.
Nicholas is from a small village called Kaganda. It’s barely a spot on the map, even though it’s only a 2-hour drive north from Nairobi. And while it isn’t deemed significant by local politicians, it means the world to its citizens.
There is only one asphalt road in the area so most people get around by walking on the dirt roads, but even those are scarce. To make matters worse, there is only one real road to the only shopping center and the church nearby, and it’s a huge detour.
The villagers have pleaded with local leaders to build another road, so they wouldn’t have to walk 2.5 miles with their groceries all the time, but they’ve gotten dismissed again and again. A new road was supposed to be built 5 years ago, but it never happened.
Thus, the people of Kaganda had started using a shortcut, wading through bushes that covered the resemblance of a footpath. Of course, it wasn’t ideal, but it was better than treading along the endless road. But the shortcut was suddenly blocked off.
See, the footpath in the wilderness was part of private property, and the owner was sick and tired of having people trespass on his land every day. So, to the shock of the villagers, he put up a fence. Now their only shortcut was inaccessible.
Naturally, the people of Kaganda were upset by this decision, but the law was on the owner’s side, so there was nothing they could do. Luckily, that was when Nicholas Muchami took matters into his own hands.
Nicholas simply couldn’t bear to stand by and watch his neighbors suffer at the consequences of poor local politics and another man’s greed. He gathered all of his tools and headed towards the bushes outside of the private property.
Every day for weeks on end, he cut down trees, pulled out roots, and dug through the dirt to create another road to connect his village to the shopping center. No matter how hot it was, he would work from 7 am to 5 pm, putting his blood, sweat, and tears into the soil.
At first, his neighbors figured he was getting paid, but when he told them he volunteered, they couldn’t believe it. He explained that he simply had a lot of energy and wanted to make life easier for everyone.
The only problem is that Nicholas couldn’t earn any money during this time, and he still needed to support himself. To rebuild his savings a little, he needed to take a break for a while. But what did that mean for the road?
By April 10, 2019, he had already dug out 0.9 miles and was nearly 3/4 done with the new shortcut. Though Nicholas needed a rest, a few others offered to help with the remaining stretch.
In less than a month, news of Nicholas’ good deed spread to all corners of the world, and people everywhere applauded him for doing what was best for his village. BBC news even paid him a visit to interview him and take some photos.
Impressed, strangers across the globe started raising funds to show their support of Nicholas and to get Kaganda another asphalt road. Local fans sent him food and gifts to show their gratitude as well.
One elderly man was particularly elated because the new, easy-to-tread road meant he could finally attend church again. Since he had trouble walking, the long way was too much for him, but this allowed him to return to his place of worship.
Thanks to Nicholas, people could retrieve their necessities and practice their faith again. Determination and a will to do good can go a long way (or a shorter one, in this case!)