Jadav Payeng, popularly known as the Forest Man of India is believed to have planted more than 1400 acres of forest land all by himself, singlehandedly, in his small village at Jorhat in the eastern state of Assam in India. I took up this photo story as part of a personal project.
I spent a couple of days with him and his family making some of these images back in 2013, two years before he received the prestigious Padma Shri Award. These images chronicle my brief conversation with Payeng and his family. He lives with his wife, Binita, and three children, Munmuni, Sanjiv, Sanjay.
In appreciation of his efforts, the Government had named the forest after him: Molai Forest. He was just 16 when the flood hit Assam and his land was washed away. He talked with his elders for the solution, and they said the greeneries can save their homeland, the inhabitants and the animals of this area. That’s when he started his endeavour to conserve the forest and started to plant tree saplings.
While Payeng is out in the forest every day, his wife Binita stays back home doing household chores in a modest house built with lightweight locally available materials like bamboo, wooden planks and thatch. Except for a solar charger which was highly valued, Books for the kids, a gold plated Souvenir that was awarded by the former President, much of Payeng’s pride, the family didn’t inherit much as possession.