Driving License: Easier to drive with legs than get a licence: India’s first double amputee with a driving license pens memoir | India News

To better illustrate how Vikram Agnihotri has designed his entire life without using hands, he shows pictures of dogs moving through water by paddling with their legs and bears scratching their back by rubbing against a tree trunk.
Agnihotri has the distinction of being the first Indian double amputee with a driving license. And yes, he drives with his legs.In Delhi to present his debutbook, “Look Ma, No Hands” at the recently concluded Bookaroo Children’s LitFest on November 25, he browses through the slides of his presentation in the run-up to his special session. “If a kid were to read this book, it’ll give him/her a different perspective towards the many challenges those living with disabilities encounter. I hope they will say ‘Okay, I know this one guy who lost both his hands, but he still went on to do so many things.’ Because we all need a little inspiration,” says the Indore-based 53-year-old. The newly minted author learnt to write with his feet while still in school.
It was back in 1977, when a seven-year-old Agnihotri unknowingly came into contact with high-tension wires and both his arms were burnt in the accident. His book is a graphic memoir of sorts, recounting the many experiments and adventures that followed the mishap. From the awkwardness around cake-cutting during birthdays to learning to play football with the neighbourhood kids, or that first day of being to able to swim the length of a pool without a float to eventually fulfilling his dream of becoming a car rally driver, Agnihotri distills his journey of living with a disability with an uplighting, heartwarming story where anything is possible with the right support. In his case, it was the unwavering cheerleading of his mother who was his best friend. “The best part about my mother was that she used to involve me in everything. Even sharing some very bad jokes,” Agnihotri fondly remembers.
In 2019, his mother underwent surgery for her spine but developed septicemia due to an infection and died soon after. The book is a tribute. “My mother once said that if you want to be remembered in life, either you should do something that people write about or you write something that people read.”
With several awards in recognition of his services in disability inclusion programs apart from securing podium finishes in motorsport events, Agnihotri is already quite written about. But finding a publisher for his children’s book wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. “It was a tweet by Anand Mahindra sharing a video story on my life which set the ball in motion,” says Agnihotri who was adamant about not self-publishing his book. Just like his parents were determined to not send him to a special needs school or treat him differently. He also completed his early years of schooling in London and Germany and was hence exposed to more possibilities. “Disability abroad is not a real issue. They have already implemented a system. In India, there is a difference between implementation and policy. We have good, extensive laws, including the RPWD Act, 2016, but they need to be executed with thoughtfulness and compassion,” says Agnihotri, who had to struggle with the administration for two years to finally achieve his driving license in 2016. “It’s easier to drive with your legs than to get a license,” rues Agnihotri.
He says he also initiated an amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act where there was no provision for driving with legs, thus opening the door for differently-abled Indians aspiring for a driving licence. “I have helped some 19 individuals so far to get a license. I am also helping Jilumol Mariet Thomas from Kerala who was born without hands. The viral story about her being the first such woman in Asia to get a driving license was fake!” says Agnihotri.
His book has thrilling episodes of dealing with the “dust devils” of the Desert Storm car rally. Also an aeromodeller and a passionate footballer, Agnihotri is itching to go back to the tracks but his mother’s death, a pandemic and now the book have held him back. “I am the designated driver for everything for my family and friends. Next year, you will see me back on the circuit,” assures Agnihotri.

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