Delhi (WFS) – As a child she used to roam around the residential colony in Bikaner in Rajasthan, where she lived with her parents and elder sister, climbing trees, playing with the boys in the neighbourhood, taking swimming and skating lessons.
All that changed the day she came back home with a grenade she had found lying on the street after a local ammunition factory had caught fire and scattered the ammo around. Although everyone at home assumed it was a diffused grenade after it blew up one afternoon Malavika Iyer’s life was never the same again.
In the explosion she lost both her arms and would have even lost her legs had she not been rushed to Jaipur for medical attention. Despite endless rounds of hospital visits and painful corrective surgeries Iyer has overcome her disabilities and put her life back together in a manner that is truly inspiring.
In this excerpt from Gifted: Inspiring Stories of People With Disabilities by Sudha Menon and V.R. Feroze, published by Random House, read all about the amazing journey of this research scholar and celebrated motivational speaker.
Over the years, I have been invited to a lot of schools and colleges as a motivational speaker to talk about my life. Many people find my journey inspiring; I, myself, think each of us need some inspiration in our lives.
I was once at a hospital when a girl seated near me introduced herself and said she had seen me on television the week before. I was astonished when she started crying and told me that she was in the middle of a stand-off with her family and was frustrated because she was dependent on them. Then she firmly wiped her eyes clean and said that she no longer felt afraid.
‘If you have lost both your hands and have achieved so much despite that, why should I feel scared or vulnerable? I am able-bodied and will make my own life,’
I often tell people that life is so short that it is a crime not to maximize that time. Before the accident, I was a trained Kathak dancer and missed it terribly in the years that I was incapacitated. Today, I’ve gone back to dancing, the only difference being that I now do western forms of dancing that do not require extensive use of arms like they do in Kathak. I can’t dance with as much ease as before but I am happy to be dancing because I think it is in my blood.
Since I was bedridden for such a long time, I was able to introspect and think about my life and in that process, I discovered a liking for writing poetry. This just goes to show that everything in our life can be converted into an opportunity. You just have to inculcate the right attitude.
My mother never raised me differently from my elder sister and never gave me the luxury of pity. With her stem attitude, she made sure I was independent and self-reliant, and I am glad she did that because pity is a dangerous thing. It makes you crave it and makes you dependent on someone to do your stuff for you.
It is my self-reliant and independent stance that also brought me close to the man who I will marry in a couple of years. I met him on a social networking site and our friendship carried on for a long time before we met face to face and found that we wanted to be together forever.
When I announced that I had a boyfriend who I wanted to marry, the first question almost everyone asked me was if he was also disabled like me. It took me a long time to convince them it is perfectly possible for a differently-abled person to fall in love and marry somebody who is normally-abled and vice versa. I am blessed to have met a man whose family took to me instantly.
In the years to come, I want to explore a career in counselling because I think my own experiences and the field work stints have made me a more sensitive person. My stint with the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF) left a deep impression on me because I realized how disadvantaged patients suffering from the condition are. At some point I would love to work in that space, too.
Right now, I am involved in a project that is, literally, ‘right up my sleeve’.
For years, I have struggled to find readymade clothes in store that fit my prosthetic arm, but to no avail.
People who use prosthetic arms or legs know that the sockets are bulky and need roomier sleeves to fit properly. At some point, I gave up, and mom and I started designing and tailoring my own clothes so that I could feel elegant with my prosthetic arm.
I have always had an interest in fashion and I am now helping in a project started by the National Institute of Fashion Technology and Ability Foundation to design clothes for the disabled. I am doubling as their model and also a consultant who is helping them understand that it is not just about designing practical clothes-those with disability want to wear clothes that make them look good, too!
At every step along the way, my life has been about pushing myself to my limits and each time, I have discovered new strengths and talents within me. My biggest mission when I started walking after my accident was to climb the stairs up to my house.
At one time, it was as formidable a task as climbing a mountain but today, I am able to run up the whole staircase. The key is to stay inspired and motivated.
A few months ago, I went on a 3 km trek in Ooty and even though my legs hurt a lot and kept me in bed for an entire day afterwards, I enjoyed the experience.
Though I have an electronic hand, it can’t do everything for me. I use it to write, when I go out in public, and for cosmetic purpose. Everything else I do with my real hands. Even if they are just stubs, I can type very easily with them. In fact, I have typed my entire MPhil thesis with them. …
Many a time people ask me what inspires me.
I am inspired by people who treat me just the same way they treat normally-abled people. I want all of us to understand that the moment you treat us differently, it is shutting us out of your life completely. The differently-abled don’t need sympathy; they just need to be in a space where they are not judged by others or measured by societal perceptions of who they are and what they are capable of.
My own motto about life is very simple.
Fight and you will survive, surrender and you will be wiped out.
(Excerpted from Gifted: Inspiring Stories of People With Disabilities by Sudha Menon and V.R. Feroze, Published by Random House; Pp: 260, Price: Rs 299.)
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