The pursuit of happiness

Malvika Iyer kick-starts the Happiness Conversations series with a talk on staying positive in the face of adversity

August 03, 2015 05:31 pm | Updated March 29, 2016 12:57 pm IST - Chennai

Happiness Conversations in progress Photo: M. Moorthy

Happiness Conversations in progress Photo: M. Moorthy

“We are born with nothing, and we leave with nothing. In between, as Osho says, there is a lot of drama that happens. In this drama, we get so caught up with the characters we are playing, and take it all too seriously, that we think it is the be all and end all of life,” said life coach AVIS Viswanathan.

Instead, he suggested, be happy.

Heart of Matter, a reflective conversation series by the InKo centre, that focuses on art, culture, society, philosophy, holistic living and history, kick started their first edition with Happiness Conversations, curated and presented by AVIS Viswanathan and wife, Vaani. “Ours is a story of bankruptcy – of having no income at a time when we had over six crores in debt and 179 creditors chasing us down. Everyone else has a story to tell. So this series is for those stories, about facing life stoically and choosing happiness, despite crisis,” explained AVIS.

The guests for the evening, Malvika Iyer and her mother, Hema Malini Krishnan, told their story, of dealing with the repercussions of a bomb blast that left Malvika a bilateral amputee at the age of 13.

Malvika narrated her story of growing up a tomboy, climbing trees and playing sports, while also dancing with the flair of a trained Kathak artiste. Her healthy adolescence went awry in 2002, when a live grenade exploded in her hand. “I’d lost about 80 per cent blood and whatever remained was probably in my head – because I was awake and aware of it all happening,” said Malvika, who lost both her hands, and suffered great damage to her legs in the accident. “At first, I thought this was the worst that could happen to me. But that’s not true; there are many new challenges to face every day. That’s just life.”

Despite what happened, Malvika went on to get a state rank in school, study in premier educational institutions in the country and meet many eminent people. She has invited a lot of media attention for her perseverance in the face of adversity, and has also inspired a lot of people along the way. Now, Malvika, who is pursuing a PhD in disability inclusion, is a social worker, motivational speaker and a model for accessible clothing.

27-year-old Malvika, who still has grenade pieces in her legs (something that still sets off alarms at security checks), is not only accepting of her life, but also, she says, completely thankful. “I really thank god this accident happened because the kind of experiences and opportunities I’ve had wouldn’t have happened if not for it.”

The discussion touched upon the importance of living in the present, accepting challenges and knowing when to let go of things that can’t be changed and eventually moving on. The moderators juxtaposed their circumstances and challenges with those faced by Malvika and her mother, and made observations about the nature of happiness in the face of crisis. “The problem is we think we are controlling things, and when things don’t go our way, we think we are being victimised. But life never promised to be fair,” said Vaani.

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