Jyoti Kumari and her mother Phoolo Devi live in Darbhanga where Jyoti's mother works, while her father Mohan Paswan has driven an auto rickshaw for the past two decades in Gurugram.
When Jyoti's father was injured in January in an accident, Jyoti and her mum travelled to be with him. Her mother returned to work in February while Jyoti stayed to care for her father.
“The owner of the autorickshaw called us up and said that he would not pay for my husband’s medical treatment,” Phoolo Devi said. “So, I took a bank loan of Rs 38,000 and went to Gurugram on January 31. Some of this was spent on his treatment. I handed the rest of it to Jyoti and returned home.”
Just as Mohan was on track in his recovery, the city was locked down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. They faced imminent eviction and had little money to buy food.
Their only option was to return to Darbhanga but finding a bus or a train was difficult in lockdown. Her father could not walk so Jyoti thought of the two wheel option.
“There was no ration at home and I was watching the news about people returning home on foot, on bicycles," Jyoti said.
"I was scared that if the landlord throws us out, we would have no place to stay and nothing to eat.
“I told my father that I would take him home on the bicycle (on the rear carrier) but he did not agree. He repeatedly told me that I will not be able to manage it."
Jyoti purchased the bike on 8 May, the day they left Gurugram.
“I bought it from an acquaintance who lived nearby," Jyoti said. "He was asking Rs 1,600 for it. I withdrew Rs 1,000 from the bank which the Central government had credited in the account, paid him Rs 500, while promising to pay the rest later. With the rest of the money, I left for home with my father.”
The pair made it home after 10 days on 17 May, her father now in quarantine while she was allowed into their village in Sirhulli.
“I would ride the bike for more than 100 km every day. We would stop at a petrol pump, spend the night there and resume our journey the next morning. At all the petrol pumps where we stopped, people offered us food and drink. They treated us very well.”
“The truck driver gave us a lift for some distance, but we had to get down because they were going on a different route.”
Impressed by her story, the Indian Cycling Federation has approached Jyoti offering her an opportunity to trial for a place in their academy program. But some Twitter users are calling the move insensitive.