Sometimes, an accident may change a person’s life forever making them face tough challenges. Such an unfortunate accident happened in Malvika Iyer’s life. At the young age of 13, she survived a bomb blast. She lost both her hands, was bedridden, and couldn’t walk for two years owing to her severe injuries. She underwent many surgeries. She accepted the scars that she had to bear lifetime But today, Malvika is a symbol of hope and inspiration for millions of people not just in India but all over the world. This is because Malvika refused to give up despite this life-changing accident.
Today, Malvika Iyer is an international motivational speaker, a P.Hd in social work, a TEDx speaker, disability rights activist, model for accessible fashion, and a global emerging leader.
Malvika often talks about that horrific accident. On May 26, 2002, Malvika, found a hand-grenade in the garage of her home in Bikaner, Rajasthan. An ammunition depot had caught fire, and a lot of shells were scattered in the area. Malvika wanted a hard surface to stick torn pockets of her jeans.Assuming it was defused, she decided to use the grenade as a hammer to fix her jeans. She took the grenade and went to her room. She used it on her jeans to flatten the pocket. After a few seconds when she tried to flatten it more, the grenade exploded in her hands. The incident left her entire family shocked. “I could see my leg dangling out like it didn’t belong to my body, and I had to tell one of the uncles who was carrying me to just keep it together. Like a movie, I had a flashback, remembering my childhood until that point, and I was apologizing continuously to my mom, who was crying non-stop, saying I am really sorry to have put you through this.” says Malvika.
She received severe injuries, and went through a number of grafting and surgeries. Initially, her legs hurt, but after a few months, she came to terms with this harsh reality.
“Pain had to be part of my life, and I had to figure out what I would do next. So now, I keep reminding myself that it’s fine, and I can take rest when I go back to bed at night,”
Her hands were chopped off. Malvika has been using prosthetic hands since then. Initially she suffered from an inferiority complex because of her incomplete body. People sometimes reacted sensitively, but mostly insensitively, on seeing her without hands. Doctors considered amputating her legs too, but didn’t. But Malvika learned to stand and walk on her own after a great difficulty in two years.
It took her some time to accept her new body and find her purpose in life.
After getting out of the hospital, the challenges of her new life when she reached home scared her more. “All my friends were preparing for board exams and making plans for the life ahead. I had no idea what to do with mine or how to go about it,” Malvika remembers. “This time I had something to prove- both to myself and the world.” she said. So she registered herself for the board exams in private and worked hard day and night. She even joined a local coaching center. Malvika scored 483 out of 500 and got a rank in state merit list. She scored 100% in maths and science and topped Hindi with 97%. Suddenly there was a lot of media attention because everyone wanted to know how a bilateral amputee girl could have such a wonderful score. She was invited by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to meet him. Soon, she joined regular school. Malvika was hardworking- she had to be, to prove herself. She graduated in Economics from St Stephen’s and began interacting with more people.
Malvika Iyer was named as the first woman in the World Emerging Leaders Award in New York in 2016. She was recognized as one of the 100 Change Agents and Newsmakers of the Decade by Deccan Chronicle in 2015. She was featured in the 3rd edition of Vodafone Foundation’s coffee-table book Women of Pure Wonder: Vision, Valour, Victory and Gifted: Inspiring Stories of People with Disabilities. She also acted in a short film titled ‘The Phoenix’ on the theme of inclusion which was shortlisted for ABILITY FEST 2013 (an India-International Disability Film Festival).
Malvika Iyer never imagined she would become a youth icon, walking on ramp in fashion shows in the United States, receiving prestigious awards in India and world, or become a motivational speaker. She gives the credit to her mom who she says has kept her strong. Malvika’s message to the youth is, “I have seen many people who complain about their life, saying, ‘Why did this have to happen to me?’ I think it builds a negative wall around you, and that needs to change into positive thinking. I stayed patient, and determined too. Today, I’m volunteering with the United Nations, and undertaking so many initiatives. I am indeed happy with my journey. Touching so many lives along the way has been a privilege and an honour.”