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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. This is a little story of one such exceptional man – Jadav ‘Mulai’ Payeng. Born in the state of Assam in 1963.
It was 1979 and floods had washed a great number of snakes onto the sandbar. When Payeng, a 16-year-old teenager found them, they had all died.
“The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow in the sandbars. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me,” Payeng said.
Now that once-barren sandbar is a sprawling 1,360-acre forest, home to several thousands of varieties of trees and an astounding diversity of wildlife — including birds, deer, apes, rhino, elephants and even tigers.
The forest, aptly called the “Molai woods” after its creator’s nickname, was single-handedly planted and cultivated by one man — Payeng, who is now 51.
Payeng has dedicated his life to the upkeep and growth of the forest. Accepting a life of isolation, he started living alone on the sandbar as a teenager spending his days tending the burgeoning plants.
Today, Payeng still lives in the forest. He shares a small hut with his wife and three children and makes a living selling cow and buffalo milk.
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