The news of a 15-year-old girl Jyoti Kumari taking her injured father to home in Bihar's Darbhanga -- 1,200 km from Gurugram, on a bicycle during the lockdown, has impressed US President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.
Jyoti Kumari, a 15-year-old girl, who cycled 1,200 km all the way from Gurugram in Haryana to Bihar's Darbhanga district with her injured father Mohan Paswan seated on the carrier, has impressed US President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.
Stuck in Gurugram due to nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, a tenacious Jyoti asked her father to sit on the rear side carrier of her cycle and took him to his native place, covering 1,200 km in seven days. Now the father-daughter duo is at a quarantine centre near their village Sirhulli under Singhwara block of the district. The girl is determined not to let her father return to Gurugram where he was driven to penury following an accident a few months ago that rendered him unfit to make a living as an e-rickshaw driver.
Praising Jyoti, Ivanka on Friday shared the news on Twitter and said the "beautiful feat of endurance and love has captured the imagination of the Indian people and the cycling federation".
15 yr old Jyoti Kumari, carried her wounded father to their home village on the back of her bicycle covering +1,200 km over 7 days.— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 22, 2020
This beautiful feat of endurance & love has captured the imagination of the Indian people and the cycling federation! https://t.co/uOgXkHzBPz
Responding to Ivanka, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said: "Her poverty and desperation are being glorified as if Jyoti rode 1,200 km for the thrill of it. Government failed her, that's hardly something to trumpet as an achievement."
The father and daughter duo started their journey from Gurgaon on May 10 after buying a cycle with whatever money they had and reached their village on May 16.
Earlier this week, the Cycling Federation of India Chairman Onkar Singh said that if Kumari, a class eight student, passed the trial, she will be selected as a trainee at the state-of-the-art National Cycling Academy at the IGI Stadium complex.
The academy, under the aegis of Sports Authority of India, is one of the most advanced facilities in Asia and has the recognition of UCI, the world body of the sport.
"We spoke to the girl this morning and we have told her that she will be called to Delhi next month as soon as the lockdown is lifted. All the expenses of her travel, lodging and other will be borne by us," Singh said.
Jyoti's journey has become an extensive talking point even on social media where there has been talk about whether she has it in her to pursue cycling as a career.
"If she needs to accompany somebody from home, we will also allow that. We will see in consultation with our Bihar state unit on how she can be brought to Delhi for a trial," he added.
At that time Jyoti was looking after her father in Gurugram while her mother was taking care of her four younger siblings back in the village while working as an Aanganwadi worker.
"Amid the gloomy situation, Jyoti suggested that we return home. I pointed out that we would not be able to find any trains or buses soon and my condition would not allow me to walk. She said we should get a bicycle," said Paswan, his face betraying the sense of bewilderment he felt when she first came up with the suggestion.
He tried hard to dissuade his daughter, telling her that the journey was not a matter of 10, 20 or even 100 km and that driving a bicycle with a pillion rider much heavier than herself was no mean feat. But Jyoti persisted.
"Battered by misfortune, I had become a fatalist. I gave in to her pestering and purchased a used bicycle with the help of whatever savings we still had. And then we hit the road," Paswan said.
Jyoti said they would cycle for 30-40 km a day and at a few places truck drivers gave them lifts.
"It was unbearably tiring. We would stop by for a quick bite at places where we could spot unlucky ones like us being fed by local Samaritans. At a few spots, we hitched rides on trucks. Drivers, taking pity on us, would help by dropping us to a point from where our paths diverged," recalled the girl.
"It must have taken eight days... and then, here we were! Back home!" said an elated Jyoti, her fatigue making it difficult to remember the date on which they had started.
The father smiled with a hint of pride when asked about her daughter being compared in the local media to the character of Shravan Kumar from the epic Ramayana, who took his old and frail parents on a long pilgrimage with his mother and father seated in baskets hanging at the ends of a pole he carried on his shoulders.
"She is indeed my Shravan Kumar. The journey back home has been nothing short of a pilgrimage. Having arrived feels like salvation," Paswan said.