When life throws challenges, we tend to feel disappointed and lose the will to take another step forward. Even if God takes away one capability from us, there is always a silver lining to relish. But as humans, we fail to notice the treasures in the sorrow of our loss.
When I went through an unexpected surgery a year back, I had lost all hopes and was almost on the verge of depression. My mother made me read an article, which changed my life and my perception of loss.
One Indian woman broke all stereotypes and proved the world that “disability is just an excuse.”
She is India’s first woman to win a silver medal in Paralympics- Padma Shri Deepa Malik. An Army officer’s daughter and wife, who broke several records in the sports arena worldwide and bagged uncountable awards to her glory.
Deepa Malik is an epitome of success against the odds. She is an untainted example of faith in life and its opportunities, who did not choose the bandwagon of caging herself at home.
Deepa Malik – Courage on wheels
If you were detected with an unusual illness, restricting your body movement for life, how would you feel? Will you be able to survive the trauma? No, right? But, Deepa did and still does with a joyful and smiling face.
Deepa Malik’s life turned upside down in the year 1999 when the doctor’s revealed her test reports. She had been diagnosed with a spinal tumor, which needed immediate surgery if she wanted to breathe again.
At the time of her surgery, her husband was posted in Kargil, fighting the War for India. Right before entering the operation theatre, she spoke to her husband and broke the news about her immobility post the surgery. Even after visualizing the consequences life will throw at them, he assured her, “Whatever may come, I will be by your side and carry you in my arms.”
The 3 surgeries went for hours and contributed around 180 plus stitches in her body. Braving the operation and accepting life on a wheelchair, did not break Deepa’s self-esteem. She endured hard instead of staying imprisoned in the misery of her loss.
An avid biker and excellent swimmer, she gave up a life of sports but instead managed a catering business for 7 years and brought up two daughters without making her medical condition an excuse.
The grit and courage shown by her is not a piece of cake. And no denying, her husband has been a solid rock standing beside her. Without shading a tear, he sacrificed his army career. And as a matter of fact, his support has been rock solid till date.
Milestone after Milestone
Updated: On 29 August 2019, she also became the first Indian woman para-athlete and the oldest to be conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.
After recovering from unimaginable physical trauma, at the age of 36, she made the life-changing decision of her life- to pursue sports once again. Barring all societal restrictions and backward mindset, she started preparing for various sports.
At the age of 45, she created history by becoming the first woman participant from India winning the silver medal in the women’s shotput F53 event at the 2016 Summer Paralympics held in Rio De Janeiro. Not only winning the medal, but she achieved a bigger success by becoming India’s first female contender and oldest athlete to ever win a medal at the Paralympics, since India’s debut in 1968.
After 2016 she has been unstoppable, one achievement after another and one medal after another. It is hard to keep a track of her accolades, but from what we know she holds 23 international medals and 68 national & state level medals in the javelin, swimming, shot put & discus events.
Going back to her love for bikes and motorcars, she holds the record of driving customized cars & motorbikes and breaking the odds, she became the first-ever physically disabled person to receive a rally license to compete in the ‘Raid-de-Himalaya’ car rally on the world’s highest motorable roads.
One milestone that many of us may not accept as a reward was raising two daughters in spite of all the challenges she endured. Out of which, Devika Malik is another para-athlete who survived a bike accident at a very young age.
We can go on about her awards and recognitions, but the biggest achievement is her unmatchable determination, and untiring will power to stay alive and happy, which is still intact with her.
One needs to rise above adversities
Just in case you are wondering these achievements came easy to her, then you are absolutely wrong!
Besides her physical disability, Deepa saw financial and personal struggles as well. There was a time when the family stayed in a one-bedroom house in Delhi. Her two beautiful pillars, her daughters-Devika, and Ambika stood by her side but witnessed difficulties very closely. Not to mention, competing for the world championship is not a bed of roses. Her rigorous training routine began every morning at 5 am and went until evening along with a strict dietary plan.
If she has earned money through her achievements, she spent it on her family to give them the comfort and rightful lifestyle that they had compromised a while back.
What does it mean to be Deepa Malik?
Often, setbacks hold us back. It pushes us to the bottom-most point and disables our thinking. Yes, our body is NEVER disabled, only thinking is. If you believe you can, no disability can seize the opportunity from achieving gold.
Instead of finding faults in others and the unpredictable situations, why not follow the optimistic path of Deepa Malik. She is a living example of a never-say-die attitude. Even after being confined to a wheelchair, she went from paralysis to Paralympic, proving her mettle.
Deepa Malik is a testament of sheer courage and valor. Converting her disability to ability, today she is not only a decorated athlete but also a motivational speaker, member of BJP and also the winner of the prestigious Arjuna Award.
Following her example, let’s all pledge to stop begrudging our lives and make the most of what we are blessed with.