From Paralysis To A Paralympian: The Inspiring Story Of Deepa Malik

Written by Chaitra Krishnan, MA (Journalism & Mass Communication)  • 

Life is hard for a person with disabilities, especially in a country like India where not a lot of facilities and aids have been dedicated to them. Along with the pressure of their personal struggles, they have to deal with a society that perceives them as weak and incapable. This societal attitude towards people with disabilities often shatters even the ones with the strongest will-power. But there’s one woman who went against all the odds and proved that none of this matters as long as you’re truly dedicated. Meet Padma Shri Deepa Malik who brought to our country the first Paralympic medal.

Forty-eight-year-old Deepa’s unfathomable passion and mighty list of achievements will leave you flabbergasted. If you ever feel like you should give up on your dreams because life has been cruel or unjust to you, just think about Deepa’s inspirational journey. If she can do it sitting in a wheelchair, you have more resources than you think you have.

The Heartbreaking Story

Image: Instagram @deepa_paralympian

Deepa was not someone who was born with a disability. She was raised in an army family and married to an army officer. The mother of two was diagnosed with a spinal tumor in 1999 when her husband was fighting for the country in the Kargil War. Her daughter was unwell during this time and it was a bad time for the family. At this crucial time, Deepa became paralyzed below her chest and was told by her doctors that she would never walk again. Well, her doctors couldn’t be more wrong. After 3 surgeries and 183 stitches between the shoulder blades, here she is, inspiring millions with a sweet smile and a face beaming with pride.

In such situations when even the bravest of the brave would have given up on their dreams, Deepa, at the age of 36, started to weave new dreams for herself. For her, the traumatic incident wasn’t the end of her life but it was something that challenged her to embark upon new adventures.

The Journey To Glory

Image: Instagram @deepa_paralympian

At an age when most athletes start thinking about retirement, Deepa was just beginning her journey. She started off by teaming up with the Himalayan Motorsports Association and successfully completed an 8-day long 1,700 km bike ride to 18,000 feet in bone-chilling temperatures. She is the first physically challenged person in the world to get a rally license to participate in the ‘Raid-de-Himalaya’ car rally on the highest motorable roads in the world. Deepa is a huge fan of biking and she started swimming in order to strengthen her arms and shoulders for difficult biking trails that she often enjoyed.

With the kind of determination and power that Deepa held, swimming bowed in front of her and she went on to make world records in the sport. She is the first ever paraplegic woman in India to have conquered the fields of swimming, biking, and car rallying. Also, Deepa got herself a world record in her long list of achievements when she swam for 1km across the Yamuna River, against the current! In 2012, Deepa received the Arjuna Award for her achievements in swimming and her passion to follow her dreams. She has also entered the Limca Book of World Records four times!

Image: Instagram @deepa_paralympian

If you thought that’s all to her story, you’re underestimating her. We aren’t even halfway through! Deepa Malik is alpha when it comes to winning medals at international sports events in categories like swimming, javelin, shot put and discus throw. She created history by becoming the first woman para-athlete from India to win an Asian Games medal in athletics, a medal in female World Championship, and also a Paralympic medal. Altogether, she has so far won 23 international medals and 68 medals in national and state-level events.

Deepa was ranked by the International Paralympic Committee among the 10 most inspirational women para-athletes. In 2017, she was also ranked among the top 10 Asian Women Leaders by Great Asia Women Achievers Awards. She has won President’s National Role Model Award, Women Transforming India Award, and First Ladies Award as well. Deepa was honored by five state governments in India and she is considered to be a role model for women throughout the nation.

A Leader And Role Model

Image: Instagram @deepa_paralympian

Deepa Malik is a woman on a mission- Ability Beyond Disability. She worked immensely to improve the policies regarding sports for physically challenged sportspersons in the country when she was a member of the Working Group for the Formulation of the 12th Five Year Plan during the period between 2012-2017.

She utilizes her ability to inspire people for other causes as well. Deepa is the ‘Clean India’ brand ambassador for New Delhi Municipal Corporation. She established the Wheeling Happiness Foundation which focuses on improving the emotional health of people with disabilities and also encouraging women to actively involve in outdoor sports.

When the fear of disappointment holds back most of us from conquering our dreams, people like Deepa Malik remind us that determination is the death of fear. She may be on a wheelchair but her achievements prove that perseverance makes every goal a cakewalk. What do you think about women’s involvement in athletics and sports in our country? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

deepa_paralympian / Instagram

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