At a time when the Indian government is busy dissecting reasons behind India's dismal show at the recently concluded Rio Olympics, Indian Paralympian Deepa Malik has given the country a reason to smile with her brilliant show at the Paralympics.
Deepa, a 45-year-old wheelchair-bound adrenaline junkie, earned India its third medal at the ongoing Rio Paralympics by winning a silver medal in the shot put event.
Her medal once again sent the country into a frenzy, something we witnessed right throughout August, where fans welcomed PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar with open arms.
While Indian athletes were having a horrendous time at Rio, it was Sakshi Malik who lifted the spirits of the Indian contingent with her medal-winning performance. PV Sindhu added the cherry on the cake with her historic Silver medal, and though Dipa could not win a medal, her Produnova act made her a household name overnight. All these three women athletes scripted history at the biggest sporting spectacle.
What makes Deepa's medal much more special is the fact that she has overcome challenges, which would have left the life of a normal human being in tatters.
Deepa, a mother of two and wife of an Army officer, is paraplegic (paralysis below chest), as a result of the 31 surgeries she underwent after being detected with a tumour in her spinal cord at the age of six. She also received 183 stitches between her waist and legs during those surgeries and was in coma for 25 days.
While it could literally have ended the lives of several people, Deepa took it as a challenge. An avid traveller, Deepa also holds four LIMCA world records, including one for swimming against the current in river Yamuna for one kilometre in 2008.
Though her moment of glory came in the shot put event, she is equally brilliant in swimming as well as javelin throw. As a matter of fact, she holds the Asian record in javelin throw, and has also won World Championships silver medals in shot put and discus in 2011.
Deepa might have become the toast of the nation with her Silver medal at Rio Paralympics, but she has already was an inspiration for those who have followed her life closely.
Time and again, she has appeared on TV shows and events to inspire people with her wonderful story.
"I want to use this medal to support women with disabilities in India. This journey has been wonderful for me and my entire family, I am proud to be the oldest athlete in the team and win a medal," Deepa told IANS.
Even at the age of 45, she could give teenagers a run for their money, with the way she trains harder and harder each day.
Every paralympian has a story to tell, but not many are as inspiring as Deepa's. Just like Sindhu, Sakshi and Dipa, Deepa too deserves a similar welcome back home after her historic show. More than her medal-winning performance, Deepa's grit and passion for life itself could be a lesson for several disabled people across the world.
The last one month has been great news for Indian sports. While male athletes have come close to winning medals, women athletes have raised the bar quite high with their scintillating performances. It has also changed the way parents look at their daughters. More and more girls are now motivated to take sports as a career.
The performances of India's women athletes, both in Olympics as well as Paralympics in Rio, could be a watershed moment for aspiring women athletes in the country.