Ability beyond disability : Life of Deepa Malik is an inspiration

Ability beyond disability : Life of Deepa Malik is an inspiration

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We, the society, often underestimate the people with physical disabilities and tend to forget the adage that everyone is equal. And then, people like Deepa arrive to give us a reality check. Her story is one for the ages.

What gives us the best story? Is it the story of a champion, who has achieved success after being continuously pitted against misery or is it the story of a hero whose life was a bed of roses? Nothing to be taken away from any of the matadors, it is the former who inspires the world, more often than not. They rise from the ashes of obscurity, mediocrity, and adversity by sheer enthusiasm and determination. The story of the differently-abled, proving their mettle in the field of sports, or anything substantial for that matter, is such an endearing tale of bravery and deserves more than just a trifling mention.

When Deepa Malik became the first Indian woman to win the silver in women's shot put at the Paralympics, she inspired a generation stuck with luxuries, and a little respect for the disabled. Her’s is a story of defying the odds at each level of hardships to become a successful. But the way it panned out mattered much more than the obvious.

Deepa was a normal lady for the better parts of her life with a bagful of love. A lady who loves to ride bikes and even married an army officer, at the age of 20, because he supported her adventurism even after the marriage. Life sometimes takes a different turn and not always for the best of the reasons. Deepa suffered with a spinal tumor during her pregnancy, and her limbs below the waist became functionless. But she was brave enough to tackle the situation alone as her husband fought in the Kargil war for the nation at the borders.

She had a different vision. To battle against the psychology of the society that the disabled can’t do anything and to prove her capability. Joining the world of sports was just the eventuality of it.

"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 one’s confidence," she told the Disability News and Information Service.  

Opportunities come to those who decide to fight. Despite suffering with Paralysis, she started swimming for speedy recovery and as her luck would have it, the Maharashtra government took the notice of her and offered her a chance to participate in the nationals. Now, she holds the Limca book of Record by swimming against the current of the Yamuna River.

Dr. V K Batish, the Neuro-surgeon who was treating her after her Paralysis at the Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi, was quoted by The Indian Express as saying, “In the 25 years that I've been a neurosurgeon, I have never come across a person like her. Deepa's recovery and her subsequent achievements are amazing. She's the kind who can teach doctors and the society at large."

Deepa is a lady of many-a-hat. She wanted to challenge the norms by playing many outdoor sports despite her disability.

But biking?

It’s not for the disabled, right?

But, she did. Her passion for the bikes was always there since her childhood, and she took it a step further. In freezing temperatures, on the harsh roads of the Himalayan valley, she participated in the Raid-de-Himalaya in 2009 and received the True Grit award. Despite the lack of Oxygen and high altitude driving, her passion got the better of every odd that came her way.

She chose to play more outdoor sports to keep herself fit and to inspire many people not to take their disability as a hindrance. After excelling in the field of swimming and rallying, Malik then turned to javelin throw and shot put. She also excelled as a restaurateur but shut that down to focus on the 2010 Commonwealth games.

She couldn’t even participate in the London Paralympics despite being the bronze medalist in the 2010 Para Asian games due to the restricted quota of 10 athletes. But that never came in the way of her determination, and she believed in the cliché, “There is always a next time.”

Deepa set her eyes on the Rio Paralympics to achieve her dream. And, the rest, as they say, is history!

She became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympics. Her shot put throw of 4.61 meters, her career best, has etched her name into the pages of history along with a dazzling silver medal.

Apart from shot put, swimming, and rallying, she has also won a silver medal at the World Championship in discus throw and currently holds the Asian record in javelin throw.

After writing her tale in a different way than others, Deepa has turned into an inspiration for others like her. She has been providing inspiration to many by giving them motivational talks. Her daughter, Devika, 26, said to The Indian Express, “She gives motivational speeches and I know that she has made a difference to a lot of people’s lives. There must be at least 60 people with disabilities who began driving because of her. Most people with disabilities never get around to learning because it is a long process to get a license. But my mother would push them. She would even teach them to drive in her own vehicle,”

Deepa undoubtedly inspired many differently-abled people to be successful in their lives, more by her deeds than by her words. She has established an organization called ‘Ability beyond disability’ to make the disabled aware about their abilities.  

“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.” Deepa told the Disability News and Information Service.

We, the society, often underestimate the people with physical disabilities and tend to forget the adage that everyone is equal. And then, people like Deepa arrive to give us a reality check. Her story is one for the ages. Her story is set to inspire the entire generation because she fought against the world for her right and achieved that in a grand style.

We need to celebrate the medals of our para-athletes with as much enthusiasm as we did when India won the world cup, with the love and warmth we welcomed Sakshi and Sindhu from Rio. Their life is an inspiration in itself. We all bow down Deepa ji!

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