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Jyoti Kumari's life is sport for middle class. Kuch yaad nahi rehta hai

While you will remember what happened to them, they have already moved on. Sab yaad rakha jaayega is a poetic line for middle-class soirees.

 |  BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES  |  4-minute read |   25-05-2020
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Jyoti Kumari is only 15. She lived with her dad in shiny Gurgaon's back alley Sikandarpur. Her father, an e-rickshaw driver, had an accident and was nursing a fractured foot when the lockdown was announced. Running out of money with no respite in sight after nearly two months in their two-room rented accommodation, they decided to go home to Sirhulli in Bihar's Darbhanga district. They bought a used bicycle for Rs 2,000 and she took charge. With her ailing dad on the carrier, she pedalled 1,200 kilometres home, giving new strength to the slogan Beti Bachao.

"This beautiful feat of endurance & love has captured the imagination of the Indian people and the cycling federation," tweeted Ivanka Trump. These words were as beautiful as brutal was the story behind Jyoti's feat.

The cycling federation had announced that she would be sent for trials because Jyoti's was no mean feat, she had mean feet. You can say this deserved the 'captured the imagination' phrase as well. Where you see misery, we see our imagination captured. Where you see adversity, we see opportunity. India had discovered a potential sporting icon from the detritus of its moral collapse.

While the food ministry could not provide food, rail and transport ministries could not offer wheels and home ministries provided police lathis, the sports ministry was watching the sport and spotting talent. The man who lifted his ailing father and ran to the hospital because no ambulance would respond should be tried for running while weightlifting. Same for the man who carried his grandmother as he walked from Karnataka. All the men who dodged police batons and ran barefoot on burning tar should already receive steeplechase medals.

1_690-3_052520061926.jpgJyoti Kumari with her father. (Photo: Twitter/@rsprasad)

The poor however are not in this business of nursing grudges. No time to hate. They are happy to have made it home, alive, in these trying times. Unlike what armchair political analysts would tell you, they will vote the same governments again. They knew the police were doing their duty when beating people. They knew lockdown meant shutting down all transport. They also know there is nothing called a free lunch. They wanted to get home somehow and they made it home. Somehow. Their objectives are modest and memories short. Besides that, what happened to them during the lockdown wasn't something new, however terrible the optics may look to the middle class now heartbroken because you witnessed the apathy of the system, their naked feet with your own naked eyes. Thanks to the lockdown, they had little else to do but notice the misery of the masses that live in their midst. The invisible became visible and what a sight it was!

The poor are beaten by police, lockdown or no lockdown, for minor transgressions. The vendor's cart is overturned by the guys who come on hafta-vasooli rounds all too regularly. They walk barefoot most of the time. They sleep on an empty stomach all too often, when very little money is left after sending home what they can. They perform physical tasks, climb floors with brick-mortar on their heads, lockdown or no lockdown. So the physical trial wasn't anything new and didn't matter much. So when you wondered how can they walk a thousand kilometres in the scorching heat, they were the shrug emoji. Like this, duh? Like we do it every day. Remember, kanwad yaatra? Well, it's like a bunch of them together.

What broke their heart was there were no shelters with cool drinks, DJ bhajans, bhakts offering foot massage for salve at every kilometre, like they do in kanwad season. They were not walking for god, they were walking from god's wrath and there was no relief.

Gripped by the panic of a virus, the fear of dying in distant places, of not being there for their families, law-enforcers did not excuse them even in these extraordinary times like they do not in ordinary times. They expected kindness as an exception but they got the routine disdain. That's all.

While you will remember what happened to them, they have already moved on. They have to earn a living in places they had left in the first place because there were no jobs. Some of them will find their daily bread and some will return to the factories once fatigue sets in. Sab yaad rakha jaayega is a poetic line for middle-class soirees. Running from police, walking barefoot, staying hungry, and testing one's physical strength to its limits are sport/adventure for the middle class. For people below the line, it's life, any day, every day.

Jyoti Kumari is just happy to have made it home. She isn't worried about cycling federation trials as life has been trying enough. We have seen gold-medallists selling vegetables and selling their medals for medical treatment. Jyoti promptly enrolled for Class 9 in a school near her village because she would rather finish her matriculation, giving a new strength to the slogan Beti Padhao.

Also read: A true nationalist hero: Balbir Singh Senior and the 1948 London Olympic Gold

Writer

Kamlesh Singh Kamlesh Singh @kamleshksingh

Journalism student. Ed honcho at the India Today Group Mediaplex. God's Loyal Opposition. Useful Warning: Tweets may hurt religious sentiments.

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