Visionaries are often accused of being a little mad. Even by their wives. Such was the case of Laungi, a resident of India’s drought-blighted Gaya district in the eastern state of Bihar.
Loungi Bhuiya had become increasingly distraught as more and more farmers—including four of his own sons—left Kolithwa for greener pastures. Taking a leaf from Don Quixote, Bhuiyan was determined not only to dream an impossible dream but to make that dream come true by single-handedly bringing water to his village in hopes of transforming the barren land into arable acreage.
Inspired by the earlier exploits of “Mountain Man” Dashrath Manjh, who, with just a hammer and chisel, spent 22 years carving a road through the mountain near the village Gehlaur from 1960 to 1982, Bhuiya set out to dig an irrigation canal by hand to the closest water source in the Bangetha Hills.
“I had heard about him and I thought if he can do it, why can’t I?” Bhuiya told Al Jazeera. “They all thought I was mad.”
“He decided to dig a canal from a natural water source in Bagetha Sahwasi forest to the village,” Village leader Vishnupat Bhokta told the Tribune of India.
“The villagers took their cattle generally to that source for watering, which also provided sustenance to the animals living in the forest area. Loungi knew that the water source was enough to irrigate the agricultural land of the villagers. However, it was a great challenge to bring water into the village.”
Despite the teasing from his family and fellow villagers, the now 70-year-old Bhuiya toiled every day to make the four-foot-wide by three-foot-deep canal a reality. It took him nearly 30 years to accomplish his goal, but now everyone is benefitting from the fruits of his decades’ long labors.
Bhuiya, whose reputation as a neighborhood eccentric has since been transformed into local hero, was recently rewarded for his efforts with a brand-new Mahindra tractor, which will be used to expand the canal.
Of course, when Quixote creator Miguel de Cervantes wrote: “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical may be madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness… Maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be,” he wasn’t referring to Bhuiya—but he just as well might have been.