A doctorate, international motivational speaker and model for accessible clothing, Malvika Iyer doffs many hats. But she’s not just your run-of-the-mill talented, go-getter. A bilateral amputee as a result of a freak bomb blast in 2002, she recently bagged the first Women in the World Emerging Leaders Award, 2016. Throughout her trials and tribulations, Malvika’s mother has been her constant strength. On the occasion of Mother’s Day, we caught up with Malvika who says her journey would have that much harder had it not been for mother’s untiring insistence and perseverance.
How was life before the accident?
I had a perfectly vivacious childhood. I'm very close to my family and was blessed with good education. I learnt Kathak for sevenyears and had a knack for making creative things from waste. The certificates and prizes in dancing, singing and art and crafts were my pride. But I was also a tomboy. I loved outdoor sports. My summer holidays were spent swimming, skating and learning to play football.
How did life change post the accident? Did you ever feel you would overcome this setback?
I feel that the accident gave me a second chance at life. I almost died that day. The doctors said I had lost 80 percent % of my blood; my blood pressure was zero. The room smelled of burnt flesh and blood. It was a gory sight. One day I was skilled at art, athletics and dance and the day after the accident I couldn't do anything. My life changed in a flash. I had every reason to give up. But I didn't. I just love how my life turned out. I never planned any of it. I just knew I would overcome my challenges, but how, I never knew. I decided to focus on my studies, go to a regular school. But, at the time my only aim was to be able to climb the staircase again.
How do you cope with all the changes that came with the accident?
Every day brought its own challenges, big and small. The emotional trauma of accepting the loss of both my hands and the disfiguration of my legs was huge. It took a lot out of me to accept that I would have to live with severe bodily limitations. Before the accident I was a cheerful person and I decided I wasn't going to lose that. This accident took a lot from me; my hands, my ability to walk, to dance, play sports. But, what it left intact was my spirit. I had a long way to go and I needed to get started. With intense therapy and the use of prosthetic limbs, I learnt to write again and took baby steps. I have never been one to brood and complain. I always think I have to move on.
What role did your family play in building back your confidence?
My family played a huge role in helping me deal with the trauma. My father helped financially by paying for my hospital bills, artificial hands and education. He has always been very proud of my achievements and when his friends read about me in the newspapers, he beams with joy. I have learnt how to be responsible from my sister. She and her husband have always been supportive and proud of me no matter what. I have friends and family who have given me the strength to overcome any and every challenge.
How did your mother help? Did your relationship with her change post the event?
My mother is my pillar of strength. She has been with me like a shadow throughout these fateful years. It's going to be 14 years since that horrific day and she hasn't left my side even once. Our relationship has turned many forms. We've been roommates, travel partners, and most importantly the best of friends. She refuses to give up no matter how hard life gets. It was not easy to reach this place where I'm today. There were setbacks at every step and it was like an unspoken agreement with her: 'We can do this."
What message do you have for girls facing setbacks and difficulties?
My message to women who are trying to find themselves is, wherever you are, accept yourself and move on from there. It is the 'why' questions that kill people from the inside. If I had started questioning why this accident happened to me, I would probably have spent my life chasing those answers in vain. The moment you accept what life has given you, the road ahead opens up, the fog clears, and from there on, the journey is beautiful.