Every year on women’s day, we try talking about the glass ceiling in the corporate world or sexism in the world of male dominated programmers. Most of these posts turn out to be about people born of privilege. Not to belittle their achievement or struggle, but it’s easier for them to break boundaries. Then there are those who haven’t been so fortunate in life and yet, have managed to become successful through sheer grit and hard work. This year, we bring you the story of Malathi Krishnamurthy Holla, a woman who has shown extraordinary courage in the face of adversities. Happy Women’s Day!
Meet Malathi Krishnamurthy Holla – India’s Fastest Athlete on Wheels
Malathi Holla is no ordinary woman. At 55, she has succeeded where many in her condition would have given up. An international para athlete from India, she is familiar in the sporting world. She has won over 300 medals, an Arjuna award and the Padma Shri awards.
Polio struck Malathi when she was a year old. She was given electric shock treatment for two years to strengthen her body. While her upper body was strengthened with the treatment, the same could not be said for her legs.
Malathi was one of four children. Her father was a hotelier in Bangalore. He shifted her to the Ishwari Prasad Dattatreya orthopedic facility in Chennai where she lived for 15 years. During the 15 years, she had undergone 32 surgeries.
At the centre, she stayed with a group of children with conditions akin to hers. She realised that most of the children at the facility were all alone. She soon decided that she wanted an alternative to medicine, that would take away her pain. This was when she picked sports to fill the gap in her life.
She took up sport to do something different in life. Being different herself, she knew that this was the only way to set an example of the difference. Her father too encouraged her in this, asking her to come out of her shell and take her place in the real world.
But when did sports really happen for her?
It was when she moved back to Bangalore that she decided to take a shot at the national games. She landed a gold and two silver medals for the effort. She also landed a job at the Syndicate bank, where she works at to this day.
Following the event, she decided to pursue sports at an increased pace. 100 and 200 meter wheelchair races, shot put, discus and javelin throwing were her sports of choice.
But she did not get where she is without hard work. Malathi’s typical day starts at 4:30 am when she begins her swimming classes. She then works at the Syndicate bank, before heading for practice to the stadium till 7 pm.
Apart from her national and international recognition, she has also given back to society. Both feats, which few able people complete. She has started the Mathru Foundation in Bangalore – a shelter that teaches and helps physically disabled people overcome their situations.
Currently over 17 children are housed at the Mathru foundation. The main focus is on polio victims from rural India. The Mathru foundation is housed in Marathalli. The children of the Mathru house get surgeries free of cost owing to certain philanthropic doctors.
Nationally and internationally, Malathi has to her name 157 gold, 18 silver and 8 bronze medals. And she’s still going. Known as the champion of champions by the international community, she is the fastest Indian wheelchair athlete from India. On July 8, 2009, she launched her first authorised biography called ‘A Different Spirit’.
Punching above your weight
In 1981, when Malathi was unwell and wanted to participate in a competition. She convinced her family to let her compete. Unfortunately, there were no other competitors in her category and was asked to withdraw. But she didn’t give up and convinced them to allow her to compete with men! “Participation was important for me. I said I’m not running for the prize,” she says. She competed with 8 men in that 100 meter race and won! “Physical strength is not the only thing that matters,” she says.
It’s your world, ask
After 32 surgeries, at the age of 16, when Malathi came to Bangalore to join college. It was tough for her to manage classes and deal with the people who’d treat her differently. Her classes were on the third floor and she had a tough time with the stairs. “The circumstances made me a handicap. But I couldn’t give up,” she says. After a pep talk from her father, she went and talked to the principal. And to her surprise, all her classes were shifted to the ground floor! “That was a turning point in my life,” she recalled in a recent talk.
Always a fighter
Malathi was not the one to come back empty handed from competitions. Small victories gave her confidence and each time she won, it gave her more confidence. She also found that sports gave her satisfaction and pleasure. “I decided to continue on that path,” she recalled. Now she is at a stage that she can’t leave sports behind even if she wants to.
Her motto in life? “One should not become a slave to circumstances: After all, we create circumstances.” [Tweet this]