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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Paralympics Champion Deepa Malik On Her Affair With Radio And How Its Sounds Tuned Her Life

  • IWB Post
  •  August 9, 2019

A dream, a fascination, a romance, a repertoire of ideas, a sharp intuition and a pair of wings. These are some of the things that the radio signifies for Deepa Malik, the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympics.

The recipient of the Arjuna Award, Deepa Malik is a woman of miracles. Though paralyzed from below the chest, her disability never defined her. It was in 2008 when she swam against the current in Yumuna for a stretch of one kilometer. She holds two Limca records for the same feat. She holds yet another Limca Adventure Record for being the first Paraplegic woman who has covered a distance of 3278 Km from Chennai to Delhi on a bike.

Recently in an interaction with The Better IndiaDeepa shared how her life has been no short of a miracle and how the radio has been her constant partner through thick and thin.

Deepa recalls her trials as she shares how she was confined to her bed for a year in her childhood owing to an undiagnosed tumor in her spine. As she was confined to the bed she needed a support to ease her boredom and accessing channels on a TV was a herculean task back in the 1970s.  Deepa shares, “Usually someone had to go out and rotate a 20-meter long antenna tied on to a tree. I found it very difficult to find such a person. So I spend my entire day listening to the radio. And that was the beginning of my unique partnership with the radio.”

Later on, when her cancer got diagnosed and treated and she got back to her life, she found yet another pull for the radio. She was a big cricket fan. Along with one of her friends, she decided to invest in a radio. They would listen to the cricket commentary even during the class with the help of a pair of headphones. So smitten by the commentary they were bound to be discovered by the teacher and exactly what happened.

The teacher told her, “If you are so interested in cricket, you should try it.” Soon enough she was engaged to the sport and became a part of the Rajasthan Women’s Cricket team. “And that was the first time I feel, I became anchored to sports,” she shares.

Soon after that love was on the cards for Deepa and she met Colonel (Retd) Bikram Singh Malik. They fell in love and the radio made its comeback yet again.

“In our times, a letter used to take about 15 days to reach. My fiancé was a young officer in charge of a convoy deployed to take them from place A to B. He would never receive my letters. The only idea of romance was through the lovely songs on the radio. They say radio creates pictures; I could literally fantasize my love story on each of the songs played on the radio. This kept us going,” explains Deepa.

You are bound to be flabbergasted to know that even her kids’ names were inspired by the radio. She shares, “I wanted my children’s names to mean the same, and also rhyme. Again, the radio came to my rescue. I would hear endless song requests from contributors, on the various programs, and I hoped to find a pair of such names. And find I did! I named my daughters Devika and Ambika.”

Life went on swiftly till Kargil war 1999. When her husband was on the warfront, Deepa’s cancer reared its ugly head again and she had to undergo a life-altering surgery. She recollects, “I underwent a 20-hour long surgery. I became paralyzed below the chest, there were complications in the brain, fluid had leaked, another surgery was conducted, and I was put on a ventilator.”

The situation in the hospital did not help her condition as the hospital reeked of war casualties and death and Deepa had to find a way which she did in her old comrade radio. She says, “And then for the next 40 days, I continued to listen to the radio as a huge supply of batteries kept reaching me. The worst time of my life was seen through by a radio.”

“Sitting in the bed I can run the house because I have acquired the quality to understand sounds – In which room is a fan running unnecessarily? How many whistles has the cooker made? Was the ghee too hot when the tempering was prepared? Did the cumin seeds burn? Which pan has been taken out to prepare tea? I then shout out to my help, no not that pan, the other one. My help is usually shocked. This is the power of sound. This is what falling in love with sounds has given me,” she says talking about how the sound of a radio has empowered her throughout her life.

Radio certainly has seen the best and the worst of Deepa’s time. The role of the radio in her life came to a full circle when she became the subject of an award-winning radio documentary. In 2016, Bird of Fire, a remarkable radio-documentary featuring Deepa Malik won the National Akashvani annual award.

H/T: The Better India  

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