Where I come from in Rajasthan, the sight of lush green trees and rich wildlife is a faraway dream. Every year, newspapers scare us with threats of impending droughts, and so from a very early age, I remember learning about the importance of conserving water and trees. But my efforts towards saving nature were limited only to watering plants at home.
Isn't it the same for most of us? Get pissed about the situation, blame the slack system and go back to our daily routine with the display of occasional pity.
But one man among us, who is neither very educated, nor too wealthy (but definitely sensitive towards the environment,) gave 30 years of his life to growing an entire forest stretching 1360 acres all by himself.
Jadav Molai Payeng was only 16-years-old in 1979 when a flood washed ashore a large number of snakes on the sandbar, a linear landform in the middle of the Brahamputra river in Assam. As water receded, the reptiles died due to the lack of it. Jadav Payeng was moved to see the lifeless creatures lying around.
"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms."
Jadav requested the forest department to grow some trees there, but they ignored his pleas. So he left his education and dedicated his whole time towards growing and nurturing trees.
"I transported red ants from my village, and was stung many times. Red ants change the soil's properties. That was an experience."
Today, the jungle, also known as Molai Kathoni or Molai Forest is rich in flora and fauna. A large number of rare migratory birds and animals dwell in the forest including the Himalayan Griffon vulture, Sambhar deer, Royal Bengal Tigers, one-horned rhinoceros and pelicans.
Jadav Molai Payeng, now 47, says :