From her village in eastern India, 15-year-old Jyoti Kumari reflected on her desperate 1,200-kilometer (945-mile) bicycle journey home with her disabled father that has drawn international praise.
“I had no other option," she said Sunday. “We wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t cycled to my village.”
Kumari said that she and her father risked starvation had they stayed in Gurugram, a suburb of New Delhi, with no income amid India’s coronavirus lockdown.
Migrant workers, who were stranded in the western state of Gujarat due to a lockdown imposed by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), wait to board a train at a railway station In Ahmedabad to leave for their home state of Uttar Pradesh, India. (Reuters)
India’s expansive railway system, the country’s lifeline, was closed to passenger service as part of the lockdown. Buses, planes and taxis were also banned. But earlier this month, the government resumed limited train travel for migrants wishing to return home.
For India’s economy, mostly composed of informal sector jobs, the lockdown has been crippling. The government has been easing restrictions in recent weeks to allow more people to go back to work.
Kumari heard about the special trains, but her father, unable to walk, wouldn’t have been able to reach the railway platform. So she decided they would bike.
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
Kumari’s journey caught the attention of the Cycling Federation of India. The racing body, which sends teams to the Olympics, has offered to bring her back to New Delhi by train for a tryout next month. It also resonated in Washington, with President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump calling it “a beautiful feat of endurance and love" on Twitter.
Kumari said that while she was happy with the recognition, she hadn’t cycled her father home in pursuit of fame.
“It was a decision taken in desperation,” she said.