Narendra M Apte

I begin with two true motivational stories. Both tell a story of hard work for a social cause. First is of Dashrath Manjhi (1934-2007). He lived in a village called Gahlaur in Bihar. He was a manual labourer. At a young age he went to work as a miner in one of the coal mines of Dhanbad, a city known as the ‘Coal Capital of India’. After some years of working in the coal mines, Dashrath came back to his native village and set up a home with his wife Falguni Devi. Falguni had to climb up and down the hillock everyday to carry lunch for her husband who would be engaged either in cutting trees or working in the fields. While carrying lunch for Dashrath one day, a pregnant Falguni suffered a fall. Since there was no doctor available in the vicinity, Falguni died. Extremely grief-stricken by the unfortunate event, Dashrath made up his mind to cut through the knoll to create a passageway so that nobody in future would suffer the same fate his wife did.

After 22 years of relentless hammering and chipping, he had achieved the impossible—he had constructed a path, 360 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 25 feet high.The tunneling through the hillock had created a passageway that decreased the distance of 55 km between Atri and Wazirgunj by 40 km. Needless to say Dashrath’s story is a saga of untiring human effort for a social cause.

The second story is of Jadav Payeng, a villager from Jorhat district in Assam, now known as ‘Forest Man’. He started planting trees in 1979 and decades later the trees have transformed into a lush forest covering 550 hectares of land, home to wild elephants, tigers, rhinos and deer. In appreciation of his single handed efforts, the Assam government has named the forest after him, as Mulai Kathoni Bari or the forest of Mulai, Payeng’s pet name.

Although thousands may be motivated by what Dashrath Manjhi and Jadav Payeng did, the question is, who motivated these two simple men? It was not money or recognition. Then what was it?

What inspires an individual to work like Dashrath or Jadav Payeng to work for hours? I believe monetary reward is rarely a motivating factor in such cases. More than money, I think it is sense of pride, a feeling of achievement, of doing something for others without expecting a reward. Feeling that one has done his or her duty in a satisfactory manner is in itself a major motivating factor in many instances.

What is motivation for a physically challenged person to establish himself as a successful businessman in this unfriendly world? What is it that makes a visually challenged person to excel as a singer or as an entrepreneur? What is it that makes a doctor work in remote villages?

Today, in a modern corporate enterprise, with thousands of employees, efforts are made to find out how to motivate employees to do their assigned work in an efficient manner. Many tools are used by management experts to install systems which will motivate employees to give their best.

Factors behind self-motivation of an employee can be a monetary reward, recognition by way of promotion or just satisfaction of doing one’s duty. These factors I suppose are easily understood. But we are aware of individuals, with gifted intellectual capability and leadership ability, who motivate others to excel in their field of work. I am always surprised and awed by the ability of some individuals to motivate others to social work. I think Mahatma Gandhi was a motivator par excellence. He motivated thousands of individuals with diverse backgrounds and abilities to do constructive work and build institutions.

In metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi or Kolkata there are millions of citizens whose daily life is full of monotonous routine and hardship. Same is case of marginal farmers and landless labourers who also live a life which offers them very little hope. Most of them have no choice but to work and work. One wonders what motivates them to do what they do for a living. I believe they are the unsung heroes of our country even as their contribution to Indian economy is hardly recognized.

Narendra M Apte, a qualified Chartered Accountant, is a freelancer.