Cusp of change: Paralympians Deepa Malik and Devendra Jhajharia recount force of will at Times LitFe


Posted by-Kalki Team



The sheer power of will was on display at the Times LitFest 2016 on Sunday evening. A panel discussion involving two Indian Paralympian champions became a platform for not just their own inspiration and drive, but also for what one panellist termed the cusp of change.

The panel discussion titled Go Limitless: The Paralympic success at Rio, featured Paralympic champions javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia and shot put champ Deepa Malik sports historian Boria Majumdar, and was moderated by Rajesh Kalra, Chief Editor of Times Internet.

Malik recounted how she was told she would not walk again, soon after she delivered her child. Doctors had told her she had just seven more days when she could walk. Her husband, who was in the Army, had been posted to Jammu and Kashmir in the middle of the Kargil Conflict.

Malik said a part of the drive that kept her going was that she wanted to prove wrong those who believed that she would never leave the room again. "I had no control over my body below my chest. I had bladder control problems. There is so much insensitivity and accessibility problems in this country, especially with toilets and sanitation. Every time doubt was thrown at me, it was answered with some action of mine, she said.

Jhajharia, who had to have his hand amputated at the age of 8 after he touched a live wire while he was climbing a tree, too recounted his mental state. "I was afraid of leaving the house after the amputation. My mother was the one who motivated me to go out again... There were a lot of people who said single hand se kya kar sakta hai ye (what can he do with a single hand) and now they know," he said to applause from the audience.

Boria Majumdar said there is a changing mindset on disability in the country. I think we are at the cusp of change. And I think these people are the instruments of that change, he said.

Perhaps to demonstrate this point, Malik then talked of her experience trying to draw cash after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. Thankfully, I had already won my medal before demonetisation. When I ran out of cash, I went to the ATM. People recognised me and let me through, and I got my cash," she said.

Was it because you were in a wheelchair or was it because they recognised you? asked moderator Rajesh Kalra.

No, I think it was because they recognised me, she responded.

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She also spoke of why there was a gap of 12 years between the two Paralympic medals that Jhajharia won, as well as the chain of events that led to her own shot put medal. Watch her explain:

Majumdar and Kalra then recalled when they had been on the committee meant to recommend names for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. "When we were talking about their (Paralympians) names for the Khel Ratna, we were told it cant be given to them. When we asked why, they said rule nahin hai (rules dont allow it). So we had to tell them, you make the rules, so make it so you can award them. It was only then that it was made possible," said Majumdar.

Malik is the recipient of an Arjuna Award (2012) and the President Role Model Award (2014). She won the silver medal in shot put at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Jhajharia too received the Aruna Award (2004) and became the first Paralympian to be honoured with the Padma Shri (2012). He won two gold medals in javelin at the Paralympic Games in Athens (2004) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).



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