“When I lost both my hands to the bomb blast, I’d convinced myself that I’d never be able to cook on my own. But, when I was having a bad day recently, I called my mom and told her that there’s only one thing that I haven’t tried yet — cooking. I asked her for a simple recipe to make mixed vegetable curry and then followed it, taking my time. Twenty five minutes later, I made a delicious subji that tasted just like mom’s.
I cooked without my hands, all by myself! I still can’t believe it,” says Malvika. After she posted her experience on her social media pages, along with a photo of herself with the dish she made, she flooded with messages, including an offer from celebrity Chef Vikas Khanna. “So here is my promise and dream @MalvikaIyer — to cook with you one day. You make the World a better home,” read his tweet. Malvika, naturally is quite excited. But what excites her more is the response she received from people who are going through experiences similar to hers. “The cooking experience was one of my biggest personal achievements. I received more than 2000 messages after I posted my experience from people who shared that they won’t give up after reading my story.
It’s the most blessed feeling,” she explains. Malvika Iyer was just a thirteen-year-old when she lost her hands. She was trying to stick her torn jeans pocket with adhesive. She went into her garage to find something heavy to keep pressure on the fabric while it dried. Unfortunately, what Malvika picked up was a grenade shell that had landed in their yard after a recent ammunition depot fire near their colony in Bikaner. As soon as she tried to press the shell over the fabric, it exploded. She lost both her hands instantaneously and sustained severe injuries to both her legs. Luckily, after multiple surgeries and a long struggle, she was finally able to walk.
Once back home, she decided that only regaining a sense of normalcy in life would make her happy. Despite having missed Classes 9 and 10 due to her injuries, she attended the board exams, dictating her answers to a scribe at the centre, and managed to score a whopping 483 out of 500, becoming a state rank holder. This is when fame came calling and she was invited to meet the then President APJ Abdul Kalam. From that point, there was no looking back. She went on to complete her schooling and later pursued a PhD.
Today, Malvika is an international motivational speaker, disability rights activist and models for designers who make clothes for the differently abled. But she feels there is still much she can do. She explains, “There were several instances where I have been stared at by the public because of my disability. Discriminatory attitude towards differently abled is the biggest barrier we face. So, I’m constantly working towards creating awareness and sensitising people about disability by taking up as many speaking assignments as I can. I have also been working on mentorship programmes. I also hope to learn to drive a car soon, just because conventional wisdom says I can’t!”