Deepa Malik : Paraplegic swimmer, biker and athelete


 Deepa Malik was diagnosed with spinal tumor 12 years ago and in August 2012, she received the Arjuna award from the president of India for her achievements in track and field.

 But the journey till here wasn’t easy. It never is. But she did it.

She had to undergo  three spinal tumor surgeries which required 183 stitches between her shoulder blades. She survived the tumor but was left paralyzed from waist down. Like all of us she had two choices – one to lead a life indulged in self pity and the other to turn adversities into opportunities. She chose the latter.

She took to sports at the age of 36. She ran a catering and restaurant business for seven years but had to close it down after she decided to train for the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2010.

Deepa battled the odds to win laurels in para-athletics. She won two gold medals (javelin and discus) at the Malaysian Open athletics championship in April and achieved a world ranking of No.3.

Her name is registered twice in the Limca Book of Records: for crossing a 1-km stretch of the Yamuna River against the current in 2008 and covering 58 kms by riding a special bike this year.

Her tally of medals is impressive – two new Asian records at the World Games at Sharjah in December last year and two bronze medals including a silver medal at the World athletics championship at Christchurch, New Zealand, apart from a bronze medal at the Para – Asian games held in China earlier. At the national and state level, Deepa has notched 39 golds, four silver and two bronze medals.

In an interview to DNIS, she talked about her life after the disability.Here are a few excerpts :

“When I started life afresh on a wheelchair after spinal cord damage, I had to undergo serious physiotherapy. When I interacted with people like myself, I realized they all felt a lack of direction. Most people think that life is restricted due to paralysis. For women, it is worse! Lucky to have full family back up and education on my side, I decided to give hope to those who were paralyzed.

I started doing various outdoor activities. I call myself to be on this mission – ‘Ability beyond Disability’. My aim is to change the stereotypical image of wheelchair users that people generally have and sensitize society toward my type of disability. The media is the best way to reach out to maximum people. Coverage of the activities I do help in convincing paraplegics at motivational workshops that a ‘normal’ life is possible even on a wheelchair!

It was pretty depressing in the beginning but the love and support of my family made the process easy for me. The acceptance of your disability by your near and dear ones can make a lot of contribution to ones confidence.

It made me look at life from a new window. I learned everything all over again, right from turning into a bed to sit, from having a bath to changing clothes. But the biggest challenge I faced was timing my bladder and water intake.

The things which I had taken for granted when I was not disabled, now seemed like big hurdles. A step just six inches high could actually restrict my accessibility, the same step that I possibly never ever noticed before! Disability brought my life into focus. I started a restaurant supporting the education of a few children, set out on a mission to motivate people like me with the help of my activities. In short I learnt to give back to society and realized the true sense of living. “

It is very rightly said that disability is only in our thoughts.People like Deepa make us realize that we are restricted only by our notion of our capabilities and limits. Hope she is successful in her mission. Hats off to her!

[ The leads of this article were sent to us by Aayush Lakhotia. If you too know about such extraordinary people write to us at ]


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