Vikram Agnihotri, India’s first double-arm amputee, launches his book at Bangalore Literature Festival

An illustration from the book

An illustration from the book
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At the upcoming Bangalore Literary Festival (December 3 and 4), alongside the likes of workshops and lectures by children’s authors Bijal Vachcharajani, Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan, and Honey Irani is a book launch, Look Ma, No Hands! authored by Vikram Agnihotri.

While this may seem like just another book for children, not many know that Vikram is a double-arm amputee who went on to become India’s first person with no arms to obtain a driving licence. Now a professional rally driver, Vikram recalls how his mother used to tell him that if he wanted to be remembered, he’d either have to do something that others will write about or write something people will read. “I’ve done both to be doubly sure!” says Vikram, 52, who was only seven when he met with an accident that led to a double amputation. 

Vikram Agnihotri

Vikram Agnihotri
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

“It was only because of the role my parents and my family played that I was able to overcome the challenge. The book is a way to share with the world the importance of a family,” says the Indore-based author, adding that he hopes it is not just children but young parents who get inspired by the book and its lessons on parenting. “Children at an impressionable age need to understand that life doesn’t come to an end just because you meet with an accident. One should never give up and always keep a positive attitude towards life. The book is a way to express my gratitude towards my family, especially my mother.” 

On Tulika Graphix

Tulika Graphix is a new imprint of illustrated titles that straddles the Early, Middle and Young Adult categories with books across themes and layered stories – fiction and non-fiction, poetry and verse, memoirs and biographies, commentaries and reflections. Two titles that launched the series along with Look Ma, No Hands! is The Block Printed Tiger, about the adventures of a runaway tiger from Ranthambore in a Jaipur Bazar told in slick verse, and Boom Boom, a coming of age story of a boy from a nomadic community.  A book on microbes in verse, a graphic novel that weaves together the lives of two mythological heroines from two distant cultures, a book on the forgotten heroes of our freedom struggle, are some of the forthcoming titles in the series.

The book, he says, was a project he started working on during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Narrated as a graphic novel (with illustrations by George Emmanual), was something Vikram was keen on as illustrations can express emotions  better, he says. “Growing up, it was books like these that left an impression on my mind. Graphics and illustrations connect better with young children than just words. It’s very hard for people to imagine a person like me doing a lot of these activities, so pictures are the best medium,” says Vikram, adding that since he had no images from his early years, illustrations were the way to go.

An illustration from the book

An illustration from the book
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

As for revisiting painful memories for the project, Vikram expresses how he and his family have come to terms with what had happened. “We’ve buried the past. So, while writing the book, my focus was more on the positives and not so much on the hardships that we faced.” Vikram’s objective throughout working on the project was more than just retelling his story. It was to “change the mindset of the people and sensitise the society towards the needs of the differently-abled. To show that it doesn’t matter whether you have hands or not, you need the right attitude,” says Vikram who also runs the Vital Spark Welfare Society. Established in 2014, he explains the organisation focusses on policy changes, enabling differently-abled people in their day-to-day lives, and trains them to be “contributing factors in society”. 

The book’s cover

The book’s cover
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

After races, and now a book in his kitty, Vikram isn’t one to rest. Next, he says, is a doctorate programme in the field of disability, and possible sequels to Look Ma, No Hands! and using his character in the book as a peg for more stories and projects. As for his doctorate currently in the works, he says it looks at the impact of emotional intelligence and parental support on the mental health of the adolescent handicaps.  

Look Ma, No Hands! is priced at ₹345 and available on tulikabooks.com

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