It is not easy these days to find an exceptional person. Someone who is genuine enough and compassionate enough – to surrender his life to giving. Leave all the magnificence of the whole wide world, and transcend to a state where none of it really matters. To go back to the roots; those that sprout from the ground we stand on and create existence.
This is a little story of one such exceptional man – Jadav ‘Mulai’ Payeng. Born in the state of Assam in northeastern India in 1963 when the world was much quiet, Jadav’s childhood was as simple as any other kid who grew up in those simple times; they played with sticks and stones, in the rivers and mountains, and worked in the fields. It was during the floods that ravaged Assam in 1979 when Jadav had found his calling. Walking along the sandbars of the Brahmaputra River, Jadav observed the floods had washed many snakes ashore onto the sandbars. The slithering reptilians delighted him, but this did not last long. A few days later, he found the snakes were all dead. The heat and the absence of any tree cover had killed them. The young sixteen year old wept over their lifeless forms but would not stand doing nothing.
Jadav alerted the forest officials who refused his request to grow trees. They said to him nothing would grow in the sandbars and asked him to try growing bamboo trees all by himself. And even though it was a painstaking process, Jadav started planting bamboo. A year later, in 1980, the Assam Forestry Division initiated a plan to reforest two hundred hectares of land in one of the sandbars of the Brahmaputra, known then as Aruna Chapori. Jadav enrolled for the job and started planing trees for the project. And this is where the story of Jadav’s life ends, or rather, begins. The project successfully ended in five years, but Jadav had decided to stay back. And since then, since the past 32 years, Jadav has remained in Aruna Chapori. Alone in the sandbar, having given up everything to live a life in isolation, Jadav has ever since been planting more and more trees, tendering and caring about them with utmost compassion.
A result of pure love and will – the forest today is more than 1000 hectares in size and is known locally as Mulai Forest, aptly named on its creator and caretaker. The flora of the forest consists of thousand of trees of various species, including vast expanses of bamboo groves. The fauna of birds is equally fascinating. There are also four tigers, five rhinoceros, rabbits, primates and over a hundred deer who have made Jadav’s forest their home. And every once a year, a herd of hundred elephants visit the forest for a few months.
As for Jadav, he is today a married old man and has two sons and a daughter. Apart from his passion for planting, he works as a milkman selling cattle milk to the nearby villages, which provides him with a meager but sufficient source of income. And like the flowing waters of the Brahmaputra, Jadav lives an usual life of planting saplings, living in a small hut made from bamboo and wood.
This is Jadav Payeng – an inspiration for the idle world, an environmentalist, a planter, a father and a husband – the forest maker of India.
* We at Greener Pastures have started a little fundraiser for Jadav Payeng which will enable him to grow more forests. If you have liked what you have read, and are inspired by Jadav, we would much appreciate a little donation from you, even if it is just a dollar. And it would be awesome of you to spread the word to your friends and family.