No hands? No problem, says amputee car rally driver-turned-author
HYDERABAD: Taking part in a car rally on a sandy track in the blazing Thar desert is a daunting-enough task, but to do so without hands is something unfathomable to most people. Step forward Limca Book record holder Vikram Agnihotri, India’s first bilateral upper limb amputee to get a permanent driver’s licence and turn into a professional car rally driver.
“Driving comes naturally to me. When I’m driving in rallies, I’m in the zone. I have taken part in seven rallies and won five podium finishes. However, my fight to get a driver’s licence was more important and necessary,” said Agnihotri.
Ahead of the launch of his first book, ‘Look Ma, No Hands!’, Agnihotri paints a picture of melancholy while contemplating his not-so-straight-forward journey up to this point in his life. The book, says Agnihotri, is an animated graphic about coming to terms with his tragedy that will inspire children due to its innovative format and absence of self-sympathy in the narration.
Having met with an electrical accident when he was just seven years old, both of Agnihotri's hands had to be amputated. He said that challenges were commonplace in his quest to lead a normal life, but that reaching every milestone helped shape his attitude towards life.
Now aged 52, Agnihotri is not only a racer but a fervent academician as well, holding a Master's degree in Economics, followed by an LLB. He is a research scholar, working on getting a PhD for his work on disability. Among his other interests are playing football, swimming, gymming, aero-modelling and music.
“I’ve had my shares of ups and downs in life. Overcoming adversities is what creates confidence. Attitude towards life is important, one can only get it from experience,” he said.
Agnihotri lists his fight to get a driver’s licence as one of his biggest challenges, as well as his biggest achievement. Despite learning to drive competently, Agnihotri was denied a licence under the existing law. But he undertook a legal battle and succeeded in getting the Motor Vehicle Act amended to allocate licences to people with physical handicaps.
“I’m proud to have made changes (to the law) and have helped 16 people get licences. More are in the pipeline; I keep telling people not to give up. It’s a cause that I champion now. We are all capable of achievements,” he said.
Agnihotri said that a driver’s licence is an important tool for people such as himself as India does not have adequate infrastructure for the differently abled. He said that it helps people such as himself lead an independent life.
“Depending on others for commute is frustrating, sometimes. I’m a thrill-seeker in life and I’m proud of my achievements,” he said.
However, Agnihotri credits and dedicates his life achievements, including his book, to his parents.
“It’s all credit to my parents for not giving up on me. This was the biggest factor that made the difference to my life, especially my mother. My book is dedicated to her and all mothers, who are unsung heroes,” he said.
Further, Agnihotri said that writing a book was to do justice to himself. “I am happy about the book. It stemmed from my expectations for myself. If I wouldn’t have done it, I would’ve felt not doing justice to myself. Now that I’ve done it, it’s great,” he said.
He said that the graphic format is close to his heart and that he has time left to contemplate writing an autobiography. He said that he plans to make further forays into the animation sphere to inspire others.
“I’m planning to enter the meta world with this avatar and use this character in fiction stories to inspire children. I plan to enter the animation sphere also. It’s all about what’s next; one needs to keep looking forward,” Agnihotri said.