Life may throw different challenges to different people, but ultimately it depends on an individual to provide a shape to their life, and in many ways define it. Bomb blast survivor Malvika Iyer serves as a wonderful example of survivors against all odds. Owing to a mishap, Iyer lost both her hands and sustained severe injuries to her legs when she was 13. She could not walk for the first six months, and after 18 months of hospitalisation, she taught herself to walk again and use a pair of prosthetic hands. “This was halfway into what was supposed to be 10th grade, but I had missed so much school that the only option was to lose more time,” she shared while speaking to Humans of Bombay, a Facebook page that champions inspiring life stories.
Iyer did not stop at that. Not only did she clear her examinations but set a goal again for herself and got a state rank. After overcoming self-doubts and reading up about people with disabilities, Iyer realised, “like me, most of the disabled hated being pitied, we were alive and this was a celebration,” she said. “In 2012, on the anniversary of my accident, after years of insecurities, hiding my new body, and a million stares and questions from strangers later, I finally wrote down what had happened and published it on my Facebook,” she said. As luck would have it, the post went viral and Iyer was soon sharing her inspiring her story with people all across the world. She has completed her PhD and is the first woman to receive the World Emerging Leaders award in New York. Last year, she was invited to speak at the UN Headquarters and co-chair the World Economics Forum’s India Economic Summit in New Delhi.
“Look at me — I’m a Phd with no hands! Just know that a bad phase or a disability is a chapter in your book…it’s not the entire story and the only person who can write your happily ever after — is YOU,” she said. Indianexpress.com has reached out to her for comment.
“I was an inquisitive child — at 13, I was rummaging through my garage when my life changed forever. There had been a fire at an ammunition depot near by that left fragments everywhere, and a grenade landed up in my garage — it exploded when I held it. I was rushed to the hospital, where by some miracle I survived the night — the doctors then began to piece me together. I’d lost both my hands and sustained severe injuries to my legs including paralysis of the nerves. For the first 6 months, I couldn’t walk and was confined to a wheelchair. At some point, iron rods were drilled in both my legs. After 18 months of hospitalisation and surgeries, I would have to learn to walk again and use a pair of prosthetic hands. This was halfway into what was supposed to be 10th grade, but I had missed so much school that the only option was to lose more time — but I decided to take it upon myself to not. I shifted my entire focus to studying non stop, and enrolled myself in classes that trained me in crash courses. I was so determined that with the help of a writer, I cleared my boards — my first big victory! I loved that I had set a goal and achieved it so I did it again — and this time I got a State rank — I was even more motivated than before!
I went on to study Economics followed by a masters in Social Work — those early years of college were the most difficult. I was on my own for a while and felt like I was surrounded by perfect people with perfect lives, while I was broken. I kept myself covered to avoid talking about what happened. It was hard for me to see myself as worthy. I felt incomplete. It was at this point that my family stood by me like a rock — they believed in me each day and cheered my every victory — I had to hold it together for them. It was also during this time that I met the love of my life who looked at me like I was the most complete person…my handicap wasn’t even a factor for him —why was it one for me? I began to remind myself that me being alive was a complete miracle–if I got through my accident, I could do anything. I researched the life of people with disabilities. I realised, like me, most of the disabled hated being pitied, we were alive and this was a celebration.
I decided to celebrate me — In 2012, on the anniversary of my accident, after years of insecurities, hiding my new body, and a million stares and questions from strangers later, I finally wrote down what had happened and published it on my Facebook — that post went viral! Soon I was giving my first TEDx talk and before I knew it, I had given over 300 speeches around the world. In 2016 I was awarded the first Women in the World Emerging Leaders award in New York and that same year I completed my PhD. Last year I got invited to speak at the UN Headquarters and even to Co-Chair the World Economics Forum’s India Economic Summit in New Delhi! So this is my journey full of ups and downs — there were days I didn’t want to live because the pain was unbearable. Even today, when I visit India, I face discrimination if I’m not wearing my prosthetics, but I’m on a mission to change that.
I take everything with a pinch of salt and anything new I do now is an adventure — at the moment I’m learning how to cook using my elbows!
I want to show the world, that you being exactly who you are is your greatest power, and the way you look or what you ‘lack’ doesn’t change that. Look at me — I’m a Phd with no hands! Just know that a bad phase or a disability is a chapter in your book…it’s not the entire story and the only person who can write your happily ever after — is YOU.”