Icon to view photos in full screen

“My big sister inspired me. Seeing how she used her hands I started using my toes in the same way”

Bikram Bhattarai from Sikkim shared one of his black-and-white drawings with us. It shows a hand with a small butterfly resting in the middle of its open palm. The image becomes especially poignant when the viewer realises that this 20-year-old sketched the hand with the only limbs he possesses: his feet.
Bikram was born in Gangtok, Sikkim, without his arms. It was a hard life in a hilly terrain but his family, classmates and fellow villagers have proved to be a collective helping hand. His father, Narpati Bhattarai, is an agriculturist who was once the sarpanch with 12 villages under him. His mother, Januka, is a primary schoolteacher in a government school. Considering his parents are busy professionals, his grandmother, Sita Maya, and his older sister, Anjali, had a big role in making his life easier.
Bikram did his schooling at the Indira Memorial Academy and the Government Secondary School, Sama Lingdum, both mainstream institutions. He did his senior secondary schooling at Ranka where he opted for science like his sister, who is now a postgraduate in chemistry. Though he scored well, he decided he liked the arts better and is now doing History Honours at the Nar Bahadur Bhandari Government College, Tadong.
It has been a long journey for him, way back when he had to traverse the half hour to his school through rough terrain with no roads. He says most days his father used to carry him on his shoulders. But it was treacherous when the rains came. Some days, the villagers came to his aid, carrying him to and from school. As they grew older, he and Anjali started going to school together with her carrying his bag. Being a couple of years his senior, she had always been his inspiration. Seeing her use her hands as a young child, he started using his legs and toes, first learning to draw and then to use a pencil.
His teachers were also a big support. Bikram gratefully recalls his teacher, Gyatri Chettri, who taught him how to write. The Sikkim Government gifted him a chair but it was not possible to use it; so his headmaster, Zigme Bhutia, redesigned it to suit his comfort. His father custom-made other pieces of furniture.
All through school and college, his friends have been there to help him every step of the way, says Bikram. At home, his mother and sister help him wear his clothes while his father assists him in the washroom. He adds that his grandmother has always had a crucial role in nurturing him as his mother is working.
Art is Bikram’s passion. He sketches in his spare time, pouring all his feelings of the moment into creativity. He also writes poetry. He did have a shot at taekwondo but realised that he was better off with art. He now has two more semesters to finish but is undecided on his future as he does not want to think too much about it. When pressed to talk about his aspirations, he says they keep changing (as it would be with any youngster). He initially opted for science because at the time he wanted to be an electrical engineer. Then his interests changed, he points out.
In his spare time, Bikram raps and listens to rappers Yama Budda, Mc Flo and Eminem. He is very grateful to all those who have helped him along the way: his family, friends, school and college authorities, and government officials.
Bikram has garnered over 40 awards and certificates in the fields of art, football, dance, singing and poetry. Here are some of them:
·        His first award was the National Child Award for Exceptional Achievements, 2011; Silver medal in the field of art and painting by the Ministry of the Women and Child Development.
·        Award from Indo-Tibetan Border Police on its Golden Jubilee at Kolkata in 2012.
·        Awarded at the state-level Special Olympics, 2017.
·        Received the Class 10 East District topper award in 2021.
·        PwD State Icon award from the Chief Electoral Officer, Sikkim in 2022.
·        Best Influencer award in 2022. 


Vicky Roy