Fifteen-year-old Jyoti Kumari undertook the mammoth task of travelling 1200 km from Gurgaon to her native village in Darbhanga on a bicycle, with her injured father in the rear seat, during the lockdown.
The lionhearted girl has won over the hearts of everyone on the Internet, as well as piqued the interest of the Cycling Federation of India.
Finding A Way Home Despite The Lockdown
Jyoti’s father, Mohan Paswan, had been working as an autorickshaw driver in Gurgaon when he met with a road accident and got injured on January 26.
Mohan was on his way to full recovery when the government announced the nationwide lockdown on March 24. With no source of income and rations running out quickly, Jyoti and Mohan were left with no sustenance or money to pay rent.
Jyoti says, “We did not have much money and the landlord pressured my father either to pay or vacate the room. No one was there to help us so we decided to return to our village. We talked to a truck driver, who demanded Rs 6000 for bringing us from Delhi to Darbhanga, but we could not afford to pay the money. Finally, I asked my father to pillion-ride on the bicycle bought with Rs 500 and we started for Darbhanga.”
Despite scepticism and protests from her father that she would not be able to manage it, Jyoti convinced him that she would successfully bring them both home on her bicycle. According to Jyoti, she was confident she could take her father to the village. She did what she thought “a son would do”.
After 7 gruelling days of taking breaks of merely 2 or 3 hours at night, worrying about being hit by a vehicle from behind, and eating at relief camps wherever they could, Jyoti and her father safely arrived at their hometown in Darbhanga.
Jyoti also mentioned that when people saw a father sitting in the carrier while the daughter rode the bicycle, they mocked and jeered at them. While her father got upset, Jyoti did not let their taunts get to her.
Cycling Federation Of India Reads About Jyoti And Offers Her A Trial
Cycling Federation Of India has offered Jyoti a trial as soon as the lockdown is lifted. If she passes it, she will be selected as a trainee at the reputed National Cycling Academy in New Delhi. The federation will bear all travel and lodging expenses for her trial.
According to the chairman, Onkar Singh, “She must have something in her. I think cycling down more than 1200km is not a mean job. She must be having the strength and physical endurance. We want to test it.”
Celebrate Her Bravery Without Glorifying Her Pain
Jyoti’s story is exemplary and inspirational, but also heart-breaking. It exposes the helpless and pitiful conditions of most migrant labourers in India right now. The lockdown has led to them having to resort to such extreme measures of physical and emotional endurance as Jyoti.
Since she’s returned home, she’s been complaining of severe body aches, wants to sleep, and is constantly tired, according to her mother.
Jyoti’s bravery and determination deserve unconditional recognition and applause. However, her story has been turned into a heroic tale of romanticised grit and “daughterly duty”. Ironically, Jyoti continues to take credit as only having done what “a son would do”.
Celebrate this extraordinary girl, but do not glorify or ignore the harsh realities that she represents.
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