This article appeared in the May 26, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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In India, a 700-mile bicycle trip powered by a daughter’s love

Jyoti Kumari carries her father on the back of her bicycle in Darbhanga, India, May 21, 2020, in this still image taken from video.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Sometimes, all you need is a daughter’s love – and a bike – to carry you home.

The coronavirus lockdown in India has forced millions to flee the cities to their home villages, where family networks offer a safety net. But one father-daughter journey home – a tale of courage and persistence – has captivated the nation. 

Fifteen-year-old Jyoti Kumari pedaled a secondhand bicycle some 700 miles with her dad, Mohan Paswan, riding on the back. He’d injured his foot, so they couldn’t walk. They had no money. They slept by the road and relied on the kindness of strangers for food. 

The father was mocked by passersby, reported The Wire, for letting a girl carry him. After 10 days, they arrived home exhausted. But wait, there’s more. As their fame spread, Jyoti was invited to try out for India’s national cycling team. “I’m elated, I really want to go,” she told The New York Times.

One reporter compared her to Shravan Kumar, a character in the Ramayana epic. A pilgrimage to holy sites in old age, says Hindu belief, purifies the soul. But Shravan Kumar, the tale goes, was broke. So, he put each of his parents in a basket tied to either end of a bamboo pole that he carried over his shoulder.

The analogy works, Mr. Paswan told The Tribune. “The journey back home has been nothing short of a pilgrimage. Having arrived feels like salvation.” 

This article appeared in the May 26, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/26 edition
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