Arjuna Awardee, International Para Athlete and Motivational speaker – Deepa Malik’s life beyond medals and fame
Deepa malik, is truly a woman of substance. She is someone whose positive attitude and never say die spirit has won her many accolades. Despite being a paraplegic, paralyzed from waist down, nothing has stopped her from taking challenges. She is a swimmer, biker, athlete and a motivational speaker. Deepa has survived three spinal tumor surgeries and 183 stiches between shoulder blades, 15 years ago. Wife of a retired cavalier col, mother of two young daughters, she is first paraplegic woman biker, a car rallyist and a first sportswoman to represent the country at International level in her category of disability. Winner of Arjuna award and many other awards at National and International level, she is epitome of success and motivation.
Today we all know her as a biker, Para athlete and a swimmer but what we don’t know is what motivated her 14yrs back and was it easy for her to achieve the success she has today?
Richa Sharma tells you the untold story of Deepa Malik, the woman of substance.
People has always seen the winning side of Deepa Malik but what about the life beyond medals and fame, how you fought your own battle?
Deepa – As a child I represented Rajasthan at the National level in Cricket and Basketball, so I was always a very sporty and outdoor person. Simultaneously developed love for driving and biking as a teenager and would often borrow bikes and drive them. Also by the grace of God found a man who was ready to give bike as a wedding gift. So this was my persona, which later tagged me as a ‘lady behind the wheels’. But as it was written in the destiny I became paraplegic and came on to these wheels permanently. It was my quest from these wheels to those wheels that I fought my battle with ease.
Your daughters were too young when you became paraplegic and also your husband was fighting Kargil war, when you were being operated so how did you braved it all alone?
DEEPA – I prepared myself emotionally and physically prior to getting surgery, even my house was prepared according to my needs. Post surgery also I did all my rehab training very sincerely. But no one applauded these facts instead people were busy judging how good mother I’ll be now and how I’ll manage home? So to change this whole mindset of people I started looking for options and as a result I evaluated myself. Sitting on bed, chest below paralysed I asked myself what can I do? And discovered that there was a requirement of home delivery counter at Ahmadnagar Army Cantonment. So with the ultimate aim of breaking the stereotype I started the delivery counter. It was my answer to the society that I can feed my children and educate them too. As the luck favored me, counter became very popular and people started coming and sitting there and gradually number of tables increased and it turned into a full-fledged garden restaurant on its own.
How your Passion for Bikes came back to your life again?
DEEPA – I was known as a biker girl, my passion for bikes forced me to establish my love for bikes again. I really pushed myself hard to get a customized bike as I was told to make my shoulders strong by doing excessive exercises for the upper body. It was during one day of hydrotherapy sessions, I realized that I can swim and I don’t drown. Meanwhile somebody did a project on me that how a lady with no skills of running a business is actually running a restaurant, which is a big hit also. Because of this media came in and a channel did a story on me and shot me swimming which turned out to be the high point of my life as I got entry into the world of sports. I got sponsors for my bike as I went on to win a gold medal in swimming. Eventually my bike was made and I was made to ride a bike first time on MTV Roadies. This was certainly the high point of my life as I got lot of biker fan following and invites to judge biking events. I owe a lot to the Xbhp biking community as it was the only online community for bikers and it gave me a much bigger platform as a biker. So my sports journey could actually carry on a wheel and with a severe disability because I had a support of motorsports world.
Does negative thoughts bother you?
DEEPA – It comes and goes, it does irritate me but I balance my negativity with positive thoughts. I believe in moving on and I don’t carry any extra baggage.
Your husband and daughters must be very proud of you?
DEEPA – My husband is my support system, he has been there through thick and thin. I remember when for limca records I decided to cross-river Yamuna, everyone panicked but my husband had a full faith in me. He said that ‘I know Deepa, she does not get into anything blindly, she would have made full arrangements to be rescued’.
How do you prepare yourself before any Adventurous activity?
DEEPA – For any Adventure activity one should listen to his/her body. In 2009 I participated in the toughest Himalayan car rally and I am happy that everyone at the motor sport federations worked hard for my Inclusion. It was full of big challenges as the minus degree temperature and harsh roads were just not good for my spasticity and thrice operated spine. Not only this but high altitude sickness, lack of Oxygen and long drivng hours and distances made it all the more difficult. But I was all prepared, having done all the research work I knew I would be able to pull it off. Our back up teams were planned, right kind of clothes were made, correct medication, regular monitoring of blood pressure and lot of determination goes in planning such a big adventurous activity.
What factors were responsible in achieving your goals?
DEEPA – Time management and believe in myself. Also my curiosity to know more about each and every thing related to my disability and probably that’s the reason I did lot of research and online discussions with people abroad, I educated myself on all possible health issues.
How it feels to be a celebrity now?
DEEPA – It was not an easy journey, being first sportswomen in my category, first rallyst and getting people believe in me was not a cakewalk. But at the end when you achieve and able to deliver the feeling of living upto the expectation and able to deliver boosts me up. Its just not about personal failures its also about failure of the concept that a physically challenged could not do it so I represent that section of the society who needs that change of ideology from rest of the society, more acceptance is required.
People on wheelchair easily loose hope. From where do you get your motivation?
DEEPA – I am a case of repetitive tumours and was first operated at the age of 7yrs, it was during this period that my parents would sit with me doing nothing and narrating positive stories, hence they played a very big role in making me a very positive person. Not only this it also depends on what kind of people you are surrounded with, my husband always used to filter people around me and not burdened me with negative energy. Also as I told you that I am a very outdoor person so moving out of the house is a big motivating factor.
You worked really hard so were you able to give time to your kids in there growing age?
DEEPA – No success without sacrifice. Everyone played their part honestly and dedicatedly like a good team. I am a firm believer of punctuality and time management so I was able to attend all school functions of my kids and they have been brought up like any other children. It is very important to maintain a perfect work life balance. I feel that it is important for one to think beyond the stereotype and follow your heart.