Paraplegic Himalayan rally participant out, not down

The never dying spirit: Deepa Malik

Malik, 40, who lost the use of her legs after three surgeries that rendered her a paraplegic in 1999, was out of the Raid in its second leg as her vehicle broke down. She was navigating for three-time Raid winner (Adventure Trial category) Rakesh Diwan in the event that began here on October 7 and concluded in Srinagar on Monday.

"The aim to conquer the majestic peaks is still as towering as my ambitions. It's just the beginning of the journey," Malik, who lives in Ahmednagar near Pune, told IANS.

"My aim was not just to win the race, but to inspire people like me to take on and conquer the challenges. I wanted to change the social outlook and mindset of society and I succeeded. Next time, you will see a number of physically challenged participants," she said.

Malik was the first physically challenged participant in the Raid in 11 years. "Our journey has ended before the destination, as the vehicle broke down," she said. "We were on a comfortable position in the first leg. In the second leg, when we were on the way to Patseo from Manali, the radiator of the vehicle broke down near Kunzum Pass (4,551 metre). But somehow we managed to reach Patseo, which was about 100 km from the accident spot, by refuelling water in the radiator hose.

"The next day, we failed to participate in the third leg as we couldn't get the vehicle repaired at Patseo," she said. The 2,000-km Raid route was tough as it passes through the hostile terrain of the cold deserts of Lahaul and Spiti and Ladakh districts.

Her tryst with adventure has earned her fame. She got her name registered twice in the Limca Book of Records - once for crossing a one-kilometre stretch of the Yamuna river against the current in 2008 and the second time for covering 58 km by riding a special bike this year. The bike expedition was organised by the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India.

Malik had won a silver in the backstroke swimming competition at the Far East and South Pacific Games (FESPIC) held in Kuala Lumpur in 2006, the second biggest games for the disabled in the world.

"I was out (of the Raid) but not down. It has left me determined to scale new heights of glory again during the next Raid in the mighty Himalayas. I want to drive away my handicap...my journey will not end before the destination next time," she said.

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