Deepa Malik is a Silver Medalist at Paralympic Games (Rio 2016), an Arjuna Awardee (2012) and a Padma Shree Awardee (2017). She has won 58 National and 18 International medals (and counting) in her sporting career that started at the age of 36. She is paraplegic and was compelled to spend the rest of her life on a wheelchair after choosing to undergo a crucial surgery in 1999. This happened around the same time when her husband was fighting the Kargil War.
In our conversation, we spoke about her formative years in the Armed Forces and how that moulded her attitudes and approach to life. We also spoke about some of the key choices she made at pivotal points through her journey (including the decision to go for a surgery that would offer a high chance of survival but would confine her to the wheel chair). We also spoke about her approach towards excellence and how she has trained and gone onto win all that she has.
Published in August 2018. All facts are relevant and updated at the time of publishing.
Nuggets from the
Early formative years
Deepa talks about the discipline that she got from an upbringing in the Armed Forces context. She specifically discusses the point around planning for tomorrow and having Plan B and Plan C for situations. She also discusses the mindset of being prepared for the unseen which has helped her overcome extreme obstacles.
Dealing with two possible fatalities
Deepa recounts her twin-ordeal in 1999. Her husband was fighting in the Kargil war and she was anxious about his well-being. At the same time she had a tumour in her back that worsened which got her to a point where she had to make the choice between leading a normal life and facing a high probability of death or going for surgery to improve her odds of living but in a wheel-chair. She discusses how she navigated this passage of play.
Rebounding from a near-death event
Deepa talks about the mindset with which she took stock of life when she had chest-below paralysis and had to recalibrate her approach to her activities, schedule, relationships and aspirations. She talks about how she developed a sense of gratitude for what she had and how she and her family chose happiness. She also talks about how her hobbies enabled her to immerse herself into an activity and bring happiness to her life.
Getting people comfortable with the context
Deepa shares her thoughts on the trade-off between seen as a “different person” versus being seen as just another individual who can do most of the things that a regular person can. She talks about how it is about her taking the onus and putting the other person at ease rather than expecting the other person to react to her situation. She says “if I am OK with it, they are OK with it”.
Picking the first "mountain" to climb
Deepa talks about how she took charge of life and how she became a restauranteur and in seven years, had built a flourishing business giving her financial independence. She then talks about her passion for biking and how she wanted to create records on a bike to ensure that her voice is heard and for her to be able to have an impact on Society.
Training for the Olympics
Deepa talks about her pursuit of excellence led her from one place to another and eventually to a medal in the Olympics. She talks about the 68 National Golds and 21 International Medals including medals from Asian Games, Para Olympics, World Championships and Common Wealth Games.
Perspectives on Excellence
Deepa talks about her disciplined approach that enabled her to win the Silver Medal at the Rio Paralympics. She also talks about her frame of mind and personal context which gave her the fire to make the Silver Medal winning throw on that day.
Picking an effective Coach
Deepa discusses her approach to picking a Coach while training for Rio Olympics. She mentions that given the uniqueness of her body condition and the training need, the traditional coaching approaches did not work. She talks about how she worked with a biomechanics gym trainer, watched her diet and worked on her psychology as preparation for the Olympics.
Deepa talks about what gives her the resilience to deal with difficult situations and how people can build that muscle. She talks about the criticality of moving from a “wallowing in the problem” mindset to a solutioning approach where you think about how you want to drive change and be the change.
About "Wheeling Happiness" Foundation
Deepa talks about Wheeling Happiness Foundation, an initiative she and her daughter have started. She talks about how they plan to bring hope to the life of people and become a medium towards creating an inclusive and accessible (physically, emotionally, mentally) India.
In summary - Playing to Potential
Deepa shares her perspective on people playing to their respective potential. She discusses the criticality of having a happy mind, staying positive and having the discipline and work towards it. She urges us to be true to ourselves for us to push towards excellence