Against All Odds

“I have seen death so close and today I see life as a second chance.” Read on for the inspirational story of brave, beautiful Malvika Iyer who stands as a shining example of how we can face life courageously despite the cruel hand of fate

When life dishes out challenges there are those who let it weigh them down and there are others who rise above it to shine in glory.  Malvika Iyer falls into the latter category. This courageous young woman was dealt a cruel hand by fate when she met with a freak accident at the tender age of 13. In 2002, an ammunition depot caught fire and a shell that fell in her neighbourhood changed her life forever. Thinking it was a defused shell, she picked it up and hit it…and it exploded in her hand. The impact was so strong that she lost her hands and suffered severe damage to her legs. It took almost two years and numerous surgeries for her to be able to walk again. She says, “For me every day is a challenge. My legs hurt constantly. Being able to walk is a luxury. I can’t walk for more than a minute or too because it hurts.”

The fighting spirit

Nevertheless, this young woman is a fighter and not one to sit back and bemoan her unkind fate. Malvika says, “I want to work on a model for a more inclusive India for people with disability. She has completed her PhD on disability and inclusion, ‘studying the discriminatory attitudes towards the differently abled’ from the Madras School of Social Work. She is a motivational speaker, traveling in India and abroad to talk at schools, colleges, NGOs and commercial establishments. She is also a Global Shaper and part of the Global Shapers community – an initiative of the World Economic Forum. She says, “Being a Global Shaper, I was able to conduct several sensitization workshops on disability.” Currently, she is based in the US. This April, she was awarded the first Women in the World Emerging Leaders Award at the Seventh Annual Women in the World Summit, Lincoln Centre’s David H. Koch Theatre, in New York. Last month, she joined the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality. She also conducts mentorship programs for the differently abled, giving them guidance.

Changing fashion mores

In 2014, this plucky young lady modelled for accessible clothing – an initiative of Ability Foundation and NIFT. She states, “I believe in this. I am very fashionable but I find it difficult to find clothes that fit.” NIFT had designed two beautiful gowns for her and she was the fashion show’s showstopper. “Fashion shouldn’t be restricted to so-called normal people. Why shouldn’t it cater to the differently abled?” she asks.

Staying positive

So, where does Malvika find the strength, energy and positivity to carry on? In her clear, melodious voice she replies, “I believe that I’ve always been a happy person and that has helped me to stay happy. The doctors gave up on my life. That is the most important factor – this is my second chance in life. The worst has happened; nothing more horrible can happen. That is what keeps me going – that nothing can get worse. I’ve lost my hands and now no loss can put me down.” Apart from her own inner resources of strength, she believes she is lucky to be surrounded by supportive people. Her mother, she says, is a very positive person who constantly encourages her.

Reaching out to others

The world is very competitive and goal-oriented. So, they are not going to give differently-abled people an edge. I have seen death so close and today I see life as a second chance. There is so much more to life. And that’s what keeps me going. I am very active on social media and every day so many people reach out to me and share their stories. I feel responsible for them. And I stay positive because there are people who are motivated and inspired by me.  So much in my life was unplanned. I just want to give my best; I believe we all should give our best regardless of our achievements

Looking forward to the future

“Today, I’m really appreciated for what I am doing and that really helps,” says Malvika. “People label you disabled and stare at you or make comments. That used to put me down, but now it doesn’t bother me because of the support of friends and family, and from myself.” She signs off with quiet determination and unshakeable self-belief saying, “Why should I put myself down because others think I’m not worthy enough?”  This charming young lady has proved her worth repeatedly and seems determined to keep moving forward.

She signs off saying, “I believe that we may not be able to control every situation and its outcome but we can control our attitude and put a brave face on and deal with the challenges life throws at us.”

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Dogs, books, music…that’s what makes life tick for me. And of course, writing. I’ve been writing for 17 years now and have enjoyed every bit of it. My idea of a great time – blast some music, cuddle my pets and gorge on pizza. Or curl up in a cozy corner with a good book. That’s bliss. And now, I’ve discovered a new bliss – yoga. Maybe, I’ll turn spiritual some day with a halo around my head! On a more serious note, I’m actively involved in animal welfare and saving abandoned dogs. I firmly believe dogs are much better than most human beings. In addition, I champion the cause of making our planet a better place. And do my bit in whatever way I can, and urge everyone to do the same.