Athlete, traveller, motivational speaker, entrepreneur are some of the many hats that Dr Deepa Malik dons and earlier last week she was bestowed with the coveted Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship for 2019 from the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
On her brief visit to New Zealand to receive the Fellowship, Dr Malik was able to visit several community organisations in the country and met members of the Kiwi-Indian community who came in hundreds to listen to her story.
Dr Malik’s life journey has been nothing short of an epic- she was knocked down to the ground several times every since she was a kid, but her spirit of living and courage, to rise again when brought down by adversarial circumstances, has brought her to the position where she is today.
Dr Malik was diagnosed with a tumour in her spinal cord in 1999 that paralysed the lower half of her body completely. Fighting with this, she underwent three surgeries and 183 stitches in a period of 14 years. She became wheelchair-bound paraplegic often look down upon by so called perfectly-abled people around her.
Dr Deepa Malik receiving the Arjuna Award from the former President of India Pranab Mukherjee
Being a mother of two young girls, her initial days as a mother was another struggle besides battling her own disability as her elder daughter Devika Malik born with hemiplegia.
Dr Malik, despite having her own limitations, started a small enterprise to support herself and her family- a tiffin or lunch service for the army personnel that became an instant hit and grew manifold.
Taunted for her inability to move around she took up the challenge to train herself physically and became a swimmer, biker, an athlete and an adventure-sports icon, all at the age of 36.
Dr Deepa Malik with Raghu Ram on the MTV reality show Roadies
Eventually Dr Malik went on to become the first Indian woman to win a medal at Paralympic Games- in 2016 Rio Olympics where she won a silver medal in Shot Put. She is currently world number one in the F53/54 category of javelin sport having won the gold medal in the athletic grand Prix in Dubai last year.
She fought the authorities to get a license to participate in a rally and later participated in the Raid De Himalaya, an 8-day, 1700 kilometre drive in sub-zero Himalayan temperatures including a climb to 18000 feet.
Dr Deepa Malik with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar
She is associated with the Himalayan Motorsports Association and has over 40 Rallies to her name. She is a recipient of Arjuna Award and Padma Shri, the highest sports and fourth highest civilian award given by the government of India. Dr Malik currently holds 58 national and 23 international medals across all disciplines including the only Indian woman to win three consecutive Asian Para Games.
A biopic is being made on the life of Dr Malik under the Excel Entertainment banner which is in its pre-production and casting stage. Actor-director-singer Farhan Akhtar and producer Ritesh Sidhwani are in talks with Dr Malik for the film production.
Farhan Akhtar (left), Dr Deepa Malik showing her Rio Paralympic Silver Medal
Dr Malik, along with her daughter co-founded the Wheeling Happiness Foundation, an initiative to support and enable people with disability sports providing access to sports equipment and help overcome emotional, social and financial challenges.
Dr Deepa Malik and her husband with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Devika Malik receiving the Queen’s Young Leader Award from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London in 2015
Daughter Devika Malik is also an international para-athlete has several accolades attached to her name as well. She has received recognitions from the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and awarded the Queen’s Young Leader Award by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London in 2015. Devika also addressed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the presence of the entire British Royal Family, Heads of 53 Commonwealth Countries at the opening ceremony about disability in 2018.
Devika Malik with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton