Vietnam

A 15-year-old daughter rides a 1,200 km bicycle and drives her father home

Mr. Mohan Paswan was unemployed because of Coѵīd-19, almost unable to move, so 15-year-old Jyoti Kumari, his daughter decided to ride a bicycle home with her father.

Jyoti pass the father nearly 1,200 km. Photo: BBC.
Jyoti pass the father nearly 1,200 km. Photo: BBC.

"Let me take you home," Jyoti told him before jumping on the purple bicycle he bought with his family’s last savings, starting the nearly 1,200-kilometer journey.

In the two months that India sealed the country, millions of migrant workers and their families had to leave big cities. Desperate and penniless, they sought to return to their home countries to survive.

"Homeland is their safe social network," said Priya Deshingkar, a professor of immigration and development at the University of Sussex (UK). That is also why Jyoti is determined to leave.

Mohan is a driver in Gurugram, a city near New Delhi. On January 26, he was injured in a traffic accident. From the village of Sirhulli in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, Jyoti took over. A year ago, she quit school because she had no money left.

Unable to work, Mohan ran out of money before India’s national blockade. After the blockade order, the life of the father and the son was even harder. The landlord threatens to evict them, after a power outage.

Hearing Jyoti present her plan, her father initially disagreed. "I told my child that it is not 4-5 km but 1,200 km," said Mohan. 

However, Jyoti believes he can bring his father safely and perseveres in persuading him. "Back in the village, I used to ride a lot. Whenever my father came back, I would take him around the village," she said. "Dad treats me like a boy so I think this is what a boy will do." 

In the end, Mohan gave in to his daughter’s determination. They bought a bicycle for $ 20 and set off on 8/5, Joyti rode and Mohan sat behind. 

The purple bicycle costs $ 20 and is purchased by Jyoti father and son with the last coins. Photo: BBC.

My father and I don’t have much food. They slept at the gas station and lived off the kindness of strangers. Except for a short hitchhike, Jyoti rides nearly 160 km a day. It was not easy because her father was quite large and also carried a luggage bag. 

Seeing Jyoti riding his dad’s bike, some people even scoffed. "Dad was upset to hear those words but I told him not to worry, they didn’t know he was hurt," she said.

During the trip, Jyoti also constantly encouraged her via the borrowed phone: "Don’t worry, I’ll take Dad home safely".

21:00 on 17/5, father and son Jyoti returned safely to the village. Mohan entered the isolation center for workers returning from the city and Jyoti was asked by her mother to quarantine at home. She was exhausted after the trip, not to mention interviewed by the press.

Many workers could not return to their homeland because of a car crash or exhaustion along the way. In this context, Jyoti’s story made her be praised by the Indian media as a "brave heart". 

On the morning of May 21, Jyoti unexpectedly received a call from Onkar Singh, president of the Indian Cycling Federation, invited to the national team. 

"She has great talent," Singh said. The Indian Cycling Federation intends to take Jyoti to New Delhi "by some comfortable means like trains" to take the tests.

Jyoti answered in a husky voice, saying in a whisper because he was still tired: "I’m happy, I really want to go". 

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