ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Limelight in Dark Times

Jyoti Kumari’s ‘Cyclothon’

Viewing Jyoti Kumari’s cycling feat as “matter out of place” reveals our collective gender and social biases.

Fifteen-year-old Jyoti Kumari, the “bicycle girl” of Bihar, shot to limelight in dark times, cycling her injured migrant father more than 1,200 kilometres from Gurugram to Darbhanga because of an ill-planned nationwide lockdown earlier this year. The story of her long bicycle trek caught the national and the international media’s attention and she has become the poster girl of the government. The romanticisation of Jyoti’s feat, however, merits some critique. The various stages of the nationwide lockdown since the outbreak of COVID-19 have exposed fissures in the government’s preparedness to tackle the pandemic. This “cyclothon” is, of course, a matter of pride for her, but it is a national shame. While I am proud of her “achievement” as much as anyone else in our hometown, Darbhanga, I am not celebrating this achievement.

What she has done is no doubt extraordinary. Jyoti’s bicycling trek would have been like the Tour de France if it were a sporting event. However, it flouts the basic rules of play that an activity should be done of one’s free will for it to be considered play. For any game or sporting event, the players should exercise their freedom to play—only then will they be able to derive the Freudian Eros or pleasure out of it. Sadly, Jyoti’s “Tour de India,” while no less commendable than a cyclothon, cannot be considered play—she was not free, but forced to cycle with her injured father riding pillion, due to the extended lockdown. It was full of pain and exhaustion. International celebrities have shared on social media how they are inspired by Jyoti’s “beautiful” story. Yes, she has indeed become a symbol of endurance and love, and rightly deserves all the adulation and affection. However, this should not limit us from questioning why we are surprised by some people and some acts.

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Updated On : 1st Sep, 2020
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