Deepa Malik, turning adversity into success

National and international medals in swimming, shotput and javelin throw are just a few of the exhaustive list of activities that can be attributed to Deepa Malik. A promising athlete, she had participated in the formidable motor sport event the Raid De Himalaya in 2009 and was honoured with the 'True Grit Award for outstanding courage and also in the desert rally storm. She is now preparing to represent India in shotput in the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in October.

Malik is not an ordinary person. She is a paraplegic, paralysed from waist down, but that has not stopped the 39-year-old from taking up challenges. The mother of two and wife of an Army officer, in fact, turned adversities into opportunity and success. Life took a twist when a spinal tumor made walking impossible 11 years ago.

Recalls her daughter Devika, now 20, "I was only eight then and my sister Ambika was three. My father Col Bikram Singh Malik was fighting the Kargil war and could meet us almost a year after the surgery."

At home, Col Malik's wife was fighting a war of her own. The Army won the war and Deepa won her personal war. Despite three spinal tumour surgeries and 183 stitches between shoulder blades, she came out a winner and has never looked back.

Dr V K Batish, the neurosurgeon who operated upon her at the Research and Referral Hospital of the armed forces at Delhi, is amazed by her progress. "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," he smiles.

Deepa also runs a successful restaurant by the name Dee's Place in Ahmed Nagar, where the family is settled. At present, she is training in Patiala for the Commonwealth Games. She was in Chandigarh today to flag off a rally of mobikers who are driving to Leh.

Before her surgery, says Deepa, she was happy being a housewife. "I was very busy wearing branded clothes, decorating the house, getting into the typical rat race. Disability gave me focus. I am now on a mission called 'Ability beyond Disability'," she says matter-of-factly.

Deepa says she wants to change the outlook of patients and the society alike towards paraplegia. "The first thing paraplegics do is stay indoors. They must understand its all right to be paralysed. You are alive, so live your life to the fullest. I agree we have a bladder and bowel issue, but there are ways and means of managing it. The world is there for you, provided you are ready for the world," she says cheerfully. For a woman who featured in MTV Roadies, Deepa admits that she is "a true roadie in mind and soul."

Her elder daughter Devika, who was with her at Chandigarh, says the whole family is proud of Deepa. "People read books to get inspired, achieve something in life. I look up to my mother. Everywhere we go, people are in awe of her. It's an adventure being her daughter," she says.

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