Deepa Malik: Where there's a wheel

Dust clouds rise as a hard-charging Safari completes a tight figure-eight on the Sambhar Lake, at the Thar Experience Drive. It comes to a perfect stop behind a line of cars. And instead of some broad-shouldered man in a tight t-shirt, out comes a wheelchair. Followed by an attractive, sporty-looking 43-year-old Deepa Malik, complete with infectious smile playing on her face. “I love driving. Who says you can’t live your passion just because you’re paralysed?” she says at the question apparent on everyone’s face.

She was born in Bangalore, and with her father in the Army, Deepa travelled extensively – her temporary bases have included Naseerabad in Rajasthan, Pune, Kota, Calcutta, Akhnoor in Jammu, and Ajmer – in trucks, Jeeps and Jongas, and the aura around these four-wheelers mesmerised her.

“I’d sit for hours at a site watching these vehicles load and move in convoys,” she reminisces. And soon enough, she developed a passion for bikes as well, secretly learning to ride one in her backyard. But her real riding time started when she got her Luna, in her teens. “I was an outdoorsy, always-on-the-road kind of girl. I’d take my Luna everywhere, and even started running errands for the house when dad wasn’t around,” she says.