The story of a courageous woman, an Army wife, Deepa Malik

If you think the Soldiers fighting for the Nation are the toughest, think again !!

The WOMEN behind them are equally strong. Of all the numerous tales of courageous women who are with Men in Uniform here is the life journey of one of a kind dare devil Deepa Malik.

The proud & most deserving recipient of the Aravali Samman by Maharana Mewad Foundation 31st Annual Recognition Award on 26th February 2012, Deepa Malik, 42 yrs, a mother of two who has been paralysed for the past 12 years after 3 major spinal surgeries is no less than a super woman.

Hailing from Haryana, Deepa Malik now lives in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, with her husband and two daughters. In 1999, when her husband Colonel Bikram Singh Malik was posted in the Kargil conflict, the doctors categorically told Deepa that removing the tumour from her spinal cord would break the connection between the brain and body, chest down.

With her father at a multinational company in Johannesburg, brother on deputation in Ooty and husband at war, “there were no men around”. Her doctor at the Army RR Hospital in Delhi, though, helped her with the preparation. She left her daughters with her mother and told her that she had to go for further checkups to Delhi. She came down to Delhi alone. The doctor kept on asking, ‘Who's with you?' and She kept saying, ‘Nobody'.”

Twelve years down the line, physically it has not been easy. With 183 stitches between the shoulder blades and seven broken vertebrae, the pain remains. Because of the regular MRI scans that Deepa has to undergo to check the progress of the tumour, doctors haven't been able to insert titanium plates.

Despite being a serious contender in professional sports, the love for wheels, which started with her childhood with a Luna bike, remained. It was this love that brought her husband Bikram and her together. While home during her vacations during the college days when Deepa was also playing for the Rajasthan women's cricket team then, she met Bikram. “I met him when I wanted to ride his bike. I was like, ‘I'll get married to the guy who gives me a bike.' He says, ‘Tomorrow I'll give you a bike, get married to me.' I said ‘Ok',” she recalls. Did she get her bike? “Yes. That was a Kawasaki Bajaj 100cc,” .

A few years ago, when the passion for motoring got re-ignited, getting a license for her category of disability proved a problem. The Maharashtra RTO had no such system. She fought her case for 19 months, got the modifications to get her car approved, got a valid license.

Getting a customised motorcycle was another challenge. Deepa remembers being politely shown the door at the Hero Honda office in Manesar when she approached them. A brief meeting with Vijay Mallya led to the Mallya Group sponsoring her first bike, which was made by Kaulson Racing in Naraina, Delhi. “Then I did my rallies, so that I'd be written about and people would take note of the fact that a paraplegic woman drove,” Deepa says. "

Deepa has won a silver medal in shot-put at the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) World Athletic Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand in January 2011(the only medal for the country and the first ever medal won by an Indian woman of any disability). Prior to that there was the bronze medal at the Para-Asian Games in Guangzhou , China in December 2010 (the first ever medal in athletics by a woman in India) and three gold medals at CP Sports in Nottingham in 2010. She is the country's first paraplegic woman biker. She was chosen the judge on the Castrol Most Passionate Biker Hunt along with actor John Abraham . Her other triumphs include the 2011 'Bajaj Allianz MOST Inspirational Women Driver Hunt', the 'Star Rider Trophy' at the Castrol Most Passionate Biker Hunt in 2009 when She has participated in the Maruti Raid de Himalaya 2009. She also holds three national records, for javelin, discus and shot-put, in the F-53 category, besides national records in the S-1 swimming category in freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke in Kuala Lumpur 2006.

Malik also entered the Limca Book of Records three times. The first time was for crossing a one-kilometre stretch of the river Yamuna against the current in 2008 and the second time for her 58-km ride on a special bike in 2009, organised by the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India. Third time was the most recent, for becoming the first paraplegic woman to reach world's highest motorable road in Khardung La. With an elevation of 5,359 metre Khardung La, which is located in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, is one of the highest mountain passes in the world. Starting from Delhi, she along with co-driver Prateek Gahlaut, she crossed nine high passes including the difficult Zojila pass, Changla pass, Khardung La pass, Taglang La pass, Nakee La pass, La Chungla pass, Baralacha La pass and the famous Rohtang pass enroute the 3,000 km journey in 10 days. Deepa Malik has been presented with the CARE Stree Shakti Awards at New Delhi's Dilli Haat for her achievements in the field of sports despite drastic physical challenges.

What keeps her motivated is her mantra “Life is not over, disability is only a state of mind"

It’s just the beginning for an incredible woman like her. All the best for her future endeavours and the Paralympics at London.