Malathi Holla – a story of will power

9 Jul

As I grew up I realised that you need legs to run and wings to fly. I was hurt. But I didn’t give up. I knew, one day, I would run… – Malathi K. Holla

malathiMalathi Holla is a character to emulate, a personality to admire and a sportsperson to idolize. She did not let her physical handicap which kept her bound to her wheel-chair since when she was just a 15 month old girl because of polio.

Malathi Holla launched her first authorized biography A Different Spirit on July 8, 2009. Clearly, it was an evening that celebrated the triumph of the human spirit over physical handicap. Cricket legend Syed Kirmani released the book authored by enior journalist and CorpCom Head of Hindustan Aeronauticals Limited M. Anantha Krishnan.

“Malathi is a champion of champions. She has won the Padma Shri and Arjuna awards. Every athlete has to struggle past innumerable hurdles but she has coped with disability and won laurels for the nation. Besides being a bank manager she also runs the Mathru Foundation for the handicapped. She deserves the very best in life and her story will inspire many,” said Kirmani.

A visibly-moved Malathi said: “The more physical pain you suffer, the more mentally strong you become and once you are strong mentally, the World will be at your feet. Sport gave me confidence and the strength to cope with my disability.

“The biggest trauma of being handicapped is the inferiority-complex that creeps in and I would tell the physically disabled to shed their negative thoughts and be positive. I hope my story of struggle and success will give the strength to many like me to lead better lives.”

Author Anantha Krishnan down-played his role with true humility. “Let the focus be on Malathi. We should all learn from her. I have just been an instrument to propagate her story,” Anantha Krishnan said.

Malathi was born in Bangalore on July 6, 1958. After she was afflicted by polio, she went through a series of treatments to cure her disease and spent almost 15 years in an orthopaedic centre in Chennai. Till date, Malathi has undergone 32 surgeries.

Malathi decided to take up sports as an alternative medicine to cure her pain.

“When I was small, I wanted to be first among my friends who used to run to the backyard to pick the fallen mangoes. I wanted to fly like a bird fearlessly from one place to another. But as I grew up I realised that you need legs to run and wings to fly. I was hurt, but I didn’t give up. I knew, one day, I would run…” said Malathi in the book.

“Thus I took up sports and decided to do something different in life. Yes, we are different and so even our lives should be a shining example of that difference,” she added.

According to her, physically challenged people have undergone so many difficulties in their lives because of the discrimination rampant in society. “But, we don’t need any sympathy, rather we need empathy from society to prove our mettle.”

Malathi is not only a sportswoman, but also works as a manager with Syndicate Bank and shelters 16 children with various disabilities at Mathru Foundation, a charitable trust in the city, established by her friends and her.

“My aim is to help and guide victims of polio from rural areas, whose parents cannot afford to send their children to school or provide medical treatment,” she said.

The book has some poignant stories from her life. Right from a hostile mother who failed to understand her properly, to poor facilities for physically challenged people in the country, Malathi has seen and gone through many difficulties.

But that has not deterred her from winning a flood of recognitions like the Padma Shri, Arjuna and Ekalavya awards.

In 1994, I wasn’t very well-known, but I had almost 150 certificates with me. I kept all my certificates on Dr Manmohan Singh’s table. I told him I wanted to buy a car and needed excise duty exemption that was available to me. (Dr Singh was the finance minister then.)

I think he had a tough day at Parliament. He asked me if these were indeed my certificates. I said yes. He then shot a question, “How can I believe that these are yours?” I was outraged. I become livid if anyone questions my honesty or hard work. And to think that this question was being raised after I had travelled for 46 hours in a train that was so unfriendly to the differently-abled that I couldn’t even use the toilet! You can imagine my mental state then.I looked him straight in the face and said, “How can I believe, Sir, that you are Manmohan Singh?” He was taken aback. “What do you mean?” he demanded.

The book has been published by Inspired Indian – a movement of writers, journalists and thinkers that promote good writing and unsung heroes.

The book has been priced at Rs. 200. It has to be ordered through the website ( as it will not be available in bookstores. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Mathru Foundation.

“Whatever struggle I have been through should be able to inspire others and that is what I wish for from the book,” Malathi signed off. Quite sure, this book will be a must read for every aspiring sportsperson’s collection.

External Link : Hindu Report on Malathi winning Arjuna Award in 2003

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