June 6, 2023

Malvika Iyer on being a bomb blast survivor and on her mom

There are a few real life stories that prove ‘Determination’ is the key factor in taking that little; but is actually a humongous step ahead. We at Mums and stories have been privileged to feature few such stories.

This time we have a story of a daughter who at the age of 13 survived a bomb blast, lost her hands, was bedridden and couldn’t walk for two years due to injuries, multiple surgeries and scars that would remain for a lifetime.

Today she is an international motivational speaker, P.HD in social work, TEDx speaker, bi-lateral amputee, disability rights activist, model for accessible fashion and a global emerging leader. Recipient of several noted awards, this young woman is someone who only INSPIRES

Meet Malvika Iyer who shared with Mums and stories her recount of the journey and on her mum Hema Krishnan, who has been the strongest pillar of support in her life. Hema who is based in Chennai also shares her poignant moments as a woman and as a mother of two daughters.

Malvika is in U.S right now and shared her journey of sheer willpower. It is not only hers but even her mom’s who we felt was equally responsible for raising daughters to accept and face any challenge in life.

It so happened, that on May 26, 2002, a just teen Malvika out of curiosity found a hand-grenade in her neighbourhood, near her home in Bikaner, Rajasthan. It was reminiscence after an ammunition depot had caught fire and a lot of shells were found scattered. Assuming it was defused, Malvika wanted a hard surface to stick something on her jeans and used the grenade as a hammer to mend her jeans. Taking the grenade she went to her room and used it on her jeans to flatten the pocket. After a few seconds she tried again to flatten it further when the grenade exploded in her hands.

“I understood after a few months that I will just not be able to undo what had happened. When I was hospitalized just after the accident, I wanted to climb stairs, hold the pen and do simple things like that.

If I have to recollect the day, it was like a lot of blood splashed around, my flesh being burnt and I blacked out for a few seconds. I remember my mom and dad’s voices and my dad and his friends rushing me to the hospital. All of them were looking at my hands and obviously it was too shocking for everyone to react rationally. 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. I did go like a movie on 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 you put through this.

I can’t walk a lot even now. There were a lot of injuries and a series of grafting and surgeries. Initially it would bother me that my legs hurt but after a few months I decided that it was time I accept this situation as pain had to be part of my life and I had to figure out what could I do next. So now I keep reminding myself, its ok I can take rest when I go back to bed in the night.

My hands were cut off and there was no need to amputate them at all. For a long time I have been using prosthetic hands. I also had a lot of inferiority complex as I had not met anyone without hands. Also I did go through the phase of people reacting sometimes sensitively and many times insensitively too when they would see me without my hands. My leg was considered by doctors to be amputated, but that they didn’t do that and I have managed until now. It took quite some time for me to accept as me myself and love the way I am destined to be in life.

My mom would tell me later that I would stand in front of the mirror for a long time and smile and this indeed would make her happy. My legs were disfigured and it did take a long time to get over my body image. I lost sensation in my left leg and after therapies and surgeries; I was finally able to walk.


Honestly, I never thought I would be here in U.S doing ramp shows, receiving numerous awards in the country and on the global front or be a motivational speaker too. A lot of credit goes to my mom who has kept me grounded. I did have the opportunity to meet Dr. Abdul Kalam who had invited me to Rashtrapati Bhavan after hearing my story and that I had topped the state for my board exams.

For others it would seem just a journey; but me and mom knew how difficult it was what we went through. There were multiple challenges. I had to be taken to places, things like getting a writer for me for my exams and even the phases of me not able to socialize or move around like others, everything had to be addressed as an individual problem. But we were very accepting of our emotions. So we would have our bouts of tiredness, failures, rejection, sorrows, happiness, achievements and that helped me.

I had my myoelectric prosthetic hands sourced from a German company and I would practice for hours to write. Initially it would be huge letters and after hours and hours of practice I did get the hang of writing.”

Talking about a daughter who has made this mum proud, Hema shares, “Malvika has always been a determined child. In fact in the early years, she was really naughty and mischievous. I remember just before this horrifying incident, I had scolded her saying, “When will you grow up?” as I was upset over a trivial issue. There have been times when I had wished I hadn’t said those words. My daughter grew up in an unimaginable way and had to lose her life as a normal person.


On the same note I would like to mention, she is doing extremely well for herself and I am glad she has come up this far. I distinctly remember, at the hospital only after two days the bandages were removed and as we were thankful our daughter survived, we were also too stunned to find out she no longer had hands. My husband perhaps could not bear the sight and just walked out of the room and we later found him literally unconscious state for the next 12 hours. It was a shock.

We were living in Bikaner, Rajasthan and after this incident I wanted to live where my parents lived and start everything afresh. So me and Malvika decided to live in Chennai to pursue further treatments, education and for the path ahead. It was the first time I had taken a decision as a mother, as a woman and as an individual after my marriage. I remember because all this happened I had to prepare my elder daughter Kadambari to take care of herself and had to leave her in my sister’s house for a year. I had the goal of picking up pieces of Malvika’s life.

To recollect one instance of how torn our lives were, I happened to see Kadambari’s 10th mark sheet after a few years and I just broke down. She had scored very well and it was perhaps never acknowledged in my perspective. It took sometime for me to get hold of life and be with my daughters together again. Though my elder one has never objected as she understood and was mature. Today she is doing well too and is leading a happy life.

One thing I would like to share is that when kids were very young, I would keep telling and trying to implement to be open on any problem they go in life and confide that with parents. It is so important to walk that journey with them where they can fearlessly trust and share everything without being judged.”


Malvika winds up saying, “I have seen many who complain or remorse on their life situations saying ‘why did this have to happen to me?’ I think it builds a negative wall around you and that needs to be resolved to positive thinking.

I was patient in life and determined too. I never thought I could be here volunteering with the United Nations and undertaking so many initiatives. I am indeed happy on my journey and feel privileged and honoured to touch lives with my journey.”




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