Deepa Malik: Where there's a wheel

Deepa went on to participate in meets of the Paralympic Committee of India, from 2006 to date, (including the Commonwealth and Asian Games), often competing for cash prizes at par with those of able-bodied athletes. “And then, I took all my prize money and did something crazy – I bought myself a Tata Safari and headed off to Leh-Ladakh,” she says. The route was to go through Kargil, that year being the 10th anniversary of both, the Kargil war and her own battle with her tumour. She went on to cover nine high-altitude peaks in nine days, and created another record in the process.

Still, the challenges are never too far away. The absence of spinal support continues to disrupt Deepa’s torso balance, requiring her to support her body weight using only her shoulders, which she strengthens with regular swimming and exercises. Also, her damaged motor nerves have left her mirror perception impaired. “I can’t drive a car whose end I can’t see. So I prefer hatchbacks, otherwise I need proper seat elevation,” she explains.

Despite those odds, she drives in at least one rally every year. Ashish Gupta, director of Cougar Motorsports beams proudly when he says, “Deepa has participated in long trails in Delhi, Kutch and the Thar every year, unfailingly. She absorbs every aspect of an experience with a smile”. In addition to all this, she also helps with a biking event called ‘Ride for Safety’, which is held every winter in Mumbai.

Early this year, at the India Bike Week in Goa, she was named Biker of the Country. “I have everything now. What more do I need?” she beams.

(Words: Shruti Nagbhushan)