Girl ped­als 1,120km to bring her dad home



Fa­ther, a mi­grant labourer, was in­jured and could barely walk

She was a 15-year-old with a sim­ple mis­sion: bring papa home. Jy­oti Ku­mari and her dad had nearly no money, no trans­port, and their vil­lage was half­way across In­dia. And her dad, an out-of-work mi­grant labourer, was in­jured and could barely walk.

So Jy­oti told her dad: “Let me take you home.” He thought the idea was crazy but went along with it. She then jumped on a $20 (Dh73.45) pur­ple bike bought with the last of their sav­ings. With her dad perched on the rear, she ped­alled from the out­skirts of New Delhi to their home vil­lage, 1,200km away. “Don’t worry, mummy,” she told her mother along the way, us­ing bor­rowed cell phones. “I will get Papa home good.”

Dur­ing the past two months un­der In­dia’s coro­n­avirus lock­down, mil­lions of mi­grant labour­ers and their fam­i­lies have poured out of In­dia’s cities, des­per­ate and pen­ni­less, as they try to get back to their na­tive vil­lages where they can rely on fam­ily net­works to sur­vive.

The press has seized upon this feel-good story, gush­ing about Jy­oti the “lion­hearted”.

‘I re­ally want to go’

And a few days ago, the story got even bet­ter. While rest­ing up in her vil­lage, Jy­oti re­ceived a call from the Cy­cling Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia. Con­vinced she had the right stuff, Onkar Singh, the fed­er­a­tion’s chair­man, in­vited her to New Delhi for a try­out with the na­tional team. “She has great tal­ent,” he said.

Reached by phone on Fri­day in her vil­lage of Sirhulli, Jy­oti said in a scratchy voice barely above a whis­per, be­cause she still sounded ex­hausted: “I’m elated, I re­ally want to go.”

Her fa­ther, Mo­han Paswan, a rick­shaw driver, was in­jured in a traf­fic ac­ci­dent in Jan­uary and was run­ning out of money even be­fore the lock­down.

Jy­oti came out from their vil­lage in Bi­har to care for Paswan. When Jy­oti came up with the es­cape plan, her fa­ther shook his head. Af­ter they ar­rived in their vil­lage last week­end, her fa­ther went into a quar­an­tine cen­tre. Then, a few days later, on Thurs­day morn­ing, she got The Call.

‘She has guts’

The Cy­cling Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia, which scouts young tal­ent and sends the best to in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the Olympics, tracked her down through a jour­nal­ist. Singh, the chair­man, said he had been moved by how far she ped­alled with a heavy per­son on the back. “And lug­gage,” Singh was quick to add.

The fed­er­a­tion is plan­ning to bring her to New Delhi,” he said. She will then do a se­ries of cy­cling tests. “She has guts,” he added.

Jy­oti came out from their vil­lage in Bi­har to care for Paswan. When Jy­oti came up with the es­cape plan, her fa­ther shook his head.


Jy­oti car­ry­ing her in­jured fa­ther, Mo­han Paswan, cy­cled around 1,120km from Gurugram to Bi­har’s Darb­hanga na­tive place amid lock­down. She took over 7 days to reach her na­tive place.


Jy­oti Ku­mari (with face mask) and her fam­ily in front of their house in Siruhully vil­lage, Bi­har, yes­ter­day.

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