On International Women’s Day, we tell you of the time when we met a true champion.
“The medals of a country don’t depend on the population of the country; they depend on the playing population of the country”, says Deepa Malik, the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal.
This is the extraordinary story of a never say die – never say no attitude woman who has conquered all odds and come back as a champion. Paralyzed from the waist down, at no given time has Malik managed to instill a sense of sympathy for her – she is more ‘able’ than many of us here.
What brought you into sports?
“I was doing my physiotherapy very regularly and learning to live with this body, as healthy as possible. Every now and then, people asked me ‘tabiyat kaisi hai, tabiyat kaisi hai’ and I was tired of this image of a ‘patient’ just because I was on a wheelchair. I was already craving to change my identity from that of a patient to a healthy person. I started doing the same exercises I did, but now in a sports arena. I was introduced to sports in Maharashtra as a swimmer. I did swimming for three years. Suddenly people stopped looking at me as a patient. In 2008, I was asked to try athletics and at the age of 39, I learned to be in athletics, which is how sports played a major role in erasing the wheelchair in the eyes of the people”.
As an army kid, she simply refused to allow her condition to keep her indoors. For someone who has spent much of her time in hospitals, she was distinctly cheerful. After multiple surgeries, the only thing that affected her life was that she could not wear clothes with low backs!
Her inclination towards sports does not end at Shot put and Javelin throw. From a basketballer and swimmer to riding the first bike adapted for paraplegics, swimming against the current in Yamuna, driving 3000kms to Leh and back, to being the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal – Deepa Malik has had quite a journey, and we are simply in awe.
Image courtesy: Sharepedia.org, Indiatimes.com