We all know Dashrath Manjhi – The Mountain Man from Bihar – who broke down a mountain to make a road so that people from his village could reach town easily and faster.
It’s time to meet Maharashtra’s very own Mountain Man – Rajaram Bhapkar who carved open 7 mountains to build roads, 40 kms long over a period of 57 years!!
The 84 year old Rajaram Bhapkar, fondly known as Bhapkar Guruji (Learned One), is a former teacher from Gundegaon Village in Ahmednagar District. He is well respected in the Gundegaon region for his feat!
Bhapkar Guruji remembers the Independence era and recounts, “ There was no paayvaat (trail) connecting Gundegaon to other villages when we got independence.” When he was working as a teacher from 1957 to 1991 in nearby Kolegaon, he used to cross 3 villages to reach his village, Gundegaon.
Guruji requested the Government authorities to build a road cutting through the Mighty Santosha Hill which stood in the way. But as luck would have it, the government authorities did not respond to his plea for help.
Living true to the mantra, “God helps those, who help themselves”, Bhapkar Guruji embarked on a 57 year long journey, a battle between Man & Mountain to build a road to help people from his village travel faster.
As there was no financial assistance, Guruji paid the wages of the workers he employed from his own salary from teaching. Half of his salary used to go in paying wages of the workers. At times ,he had to resort to more expensive options like Excavators when spade and shovel could not make the Mountain yield!
But he did all this on his own and spent all of his retirement savings and pension money. 57 years later, his efforts bore fruit and he made a total of 7 roads linking Gundegaon to adjoining villages! The road to Kolegaon was earlier 29 km long, Bhapkar Guruji carved open the mountain and reduced the distance to a mere 10km by building a kaccha road!!
These roads built without taking a single rupee from the Government are stellar examples of what Human Determination can do when put to test!
Rajaram Bhapkar is a simple man. He dresses in white Kurta Pajamas and wears a Gandhi Topi. He has but one hobby – he likes to collect white Fiat Padmini cars and loves to drive them on roads where other do not venture! It is said he owns a fleet of white Padminis!!
Bhapkar Guruji is no less than a freedom fighter who sacrificed his own earnings, put his head down and worked for the sole aim of getting freedom from time consuming travel for his people – and was successful only through will, determination and persistence!!!