When 15-year-old Jyoti Kumari undertook the journey from Gurugram to her village in Bihar on cycle with her injured father riding pillion, reaching home safely was her only concern.
Jyoti cycled a distance of 1200 km - all the way from Gurugram to Darbhanga in Bihar - in May notwithstanding the scorching heat during the day and the sea of male workers at night. Little did she know that her courageous feat would invite the attention of filmmakers and she would get a chance to play a lead role in a film based on her life.
"Bahut achha lag raha hai (I feel very good)," Jyoti told PTI on being signed up for the film.
Four friends, who are united by passion for films and documentaries, have bagged the rights for Jyoti’s life story and the project is to set go on the floors from August.
The film, titled Atmanirbhar (Self reliant), will be directed by Shine Sharma and will be produced under the banner of WemakeFilmz. It will be released in Hindi, English, and Maithili. The film will also have subtitles in 20 languages and will be titled, A Journey of a Migrant, for the international audience.
The film will be shot in locations that were part of Jyoti's journey from Gurugram to Darbhanga and will be more fictionalised by including various other incidents.
A tale of courage and determination
Jyoti’s father Mohan Paswan has been driving in an e-rickshaw in Gurugram for the past few years. His wife, who has been cooking in anganwadis for eight years and their five children, have been living in Sirauli village in Bihar.
In January, Mohan sustained injuries in an accident. Jyoti went to Delhi in February to take care of him but the duo got stuck when the nationwide lockdown was imposed in March to contain the spread of coronavirus. Staying back in Gurugram became increasingly difficult as Mohan’s landlord started coercing him to pay rent. With no money to pay rent and with the landlord had cut off their electricity connection, Jyoti was left with no option but to head home on cycle.
Jyoti was quoted saying, “I told my father that I would take him home on the cycle, but he did not agree. He repeatedly told me that I will not be able to manage it, I withdrew Rs 1000 from the bank and managed to collect Rs 500 to buy a second-hand cycle. I would ride the bike for more than 50 -60 km every day. Cycling across long bridges was challenging. We would stop at a petrol pump, spend the night there. People offered us food and drink. Whenever we could, we would hitch rides.”
On reaching Darbhanga after the arduous journey, Jyoti was rewarded by the District Magistrate of Darbhanga. DM Thiyagrajan got Jyoti enrolled in class 9 and also gifted her a brand new cycle.
Jyoti’s indomitable spirit made it to international headlines with Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump sharing her story on Twitter. Union Minister for Sports Kiran Rijiju had also praised Jyoti for her bravery and offered to help her. Many social institutions and political parties had shown interest in paying for Jyoti’s education and to help her get a job. The Cycling Federation of India had also offered her a trial as a trainee which Jyoti had declined saying she wants to study to get a steady job.
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)