Deepa Malik: The pride of Gurgaon. A backstage peek into the life of a Paralympic sports star!
Deepa Malik, the first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic Games; a Padma Shri title holder, an Arjuna Award winner and with many more coveted titles and records to her credit she
is the leading example of heroism- her journey from paralysis to Paralympics in an inspiration.
Diagnosed with a spinal tumour in 1999 followed by multiple surgeries to treat a tumour and enduring almost 200 stitches between shoulder blades, Deepa was left paralysed chest down. Coping with her trauma mental, emotional and physical, “It was certainly not easy for me to accept my disability. After coming to terms with reality the first thing that I promised myself was not to ask for money from my family and earn a respectable living. Very quickly, I understood that it was me only who could turn things around for me and my daughters.”
Taking one day at a time with dignity
People most often only talk about her sports laurels and applaud the many medals that she has won over the years, it is the behind the scenes struggle that is often left unsaid. The athlete sports star, Deepa has invested effort and time in making herself fiercely independent so that she can manage her everyday chores with ignity. She learnt urinary catheterization to manage her urine and passing of stool in her initial days after her surgeries.
Her simple day to day routine is not just challenging but also an expensive affair. To keep her joints moving and guard her body muscles against getting stiff, daily physiotherapy is a must that is yet an added daily expense. Every now and then, Deepa undergoes hydrotherapy to overcome spasticity in her joints which makes the body stiff and go into spasm.
Deepa cannot stay or sleep in a dark room as it brings back unpleasant memories of bygone tests and X-rays that she underwent during her early years for being tested for a tumour. She keeps the light of her room switched on while sleeping and the family has adapted to this practice. For her comfort, Deepa needs to camouflage noises of things as simple as a pressure cooker whistle which may trigger her bladder and cause leakage.
A foodie, the Paralympian loves to binge on Chaat and to control her bowels the next day, she must gorge on copious amounts of bread, popcorn and carbs to tighten her stools and hence plans a movie marathon with her daughters to stay indoors and avoid any stool malfunction outside. One weekend a month is reserved for this fun activity!
Travelling on a train or sitting for long events is very taxing for her. Many times because of budget constraints and other reasons she is left with no choice but do a train journey. “It is difficult honestly she says, I usually keep a free day before any event if I must travel on a train since I need a day to rest and get my body to function normally.”
“It has been a long journey but I have worked very hard to make it a success story. People should now accept that our family is fine, not cursed with sadness and we are not burdened with financial liabilities. I have learnt to intelligently manage my body and today can take care of my complete personal work – toilet needs, bath, changing clothes, meals, medication, commuting and all that is required to lead a ‘normal’ life.’’
This story first appeared in the Print version of SUBURB November 2018 issue.