JHARKHAND: Denied his share of fish caught from two ancestral ponds, Fagu Mahto of the Patamahul village in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district dug a pond all by himself. It took him 23 years and he had to sacrifice a few years of his job, but no odds or obstacles could deter him from completing his mission. Now, not only can his family enjoy fish in their meals every day but it’s also an additional source of income for them.
The digging was, in fact, started by Fagu’s father Bharat Mahto and it was a taunt from his daughter-in-law, Fagu’s wife Chethri Devi, that spurred him to do so. “In 1982, due to some dispute within the extended family, my father was not given his share of fish caught from our ancestral ponds,” said Mahto. Being away at work, he said he had no idea what had transpired during the day and so, at dinner time, he flared up when he was not served fish.
His wife retorted that his father had not dug any pond for him that she would cook fish for him. “My father heard my wife saying that and was very hurt. He told me then and there that he would dig a pond for me so that I never have any problem getting fish for my entire life,” said Mahto. He and his wife thought his father was just saying that in anger. “But the next morning, he woke up and started working on two acres of land which belonged to us,” said Mahto.
Three years later, in 1985, Bharat died but made his son promise that he would continue digging the pond. “A day before my father passed away, he asked me to continue working on the pond for the sake of keeping his words,” said Mahto. For the next 23 years, he kept digging to complete the pond. He even quit his job eight years before retirement so that he could keep the promise made to his father. He used to work in a steel factory as a fitter.
“I also had to run my family. So, every month I worked in the factory for 15 days and dug the pond for the
remaining days. After my three sons started earning, I resigned from job in 2008, eight years before my retirement, so that I could dedicate my entire time to fulfil the wish of my father,” said Mahto, who is now 70 years old. Chethri Devi said her husband was so determined to complete the work started by his father that he used to go for digging even at midnight on full moon days in winters and in summer afternoons without caring for his health.
“Digging had become a part of his life and despite his old age, he is still working to make the pond deeper,” she said. Mahto’s daughter-in-law Asha Devi said the family has been doing fish farming and rearing ducks in the pond for the last two-three years.
“I have been watching my father-in-law doing the digging round the year ever since I got married. In the beginning, I could not understand what he was doing. But later I started appreciating it. Now, fish farming has become an additional source of income for our family. Besides, fish is available for our consumption throughout the year,” said Asha Devi.