HYDERABAD: If you think staying home for coronavirus lockdown is tough, try getting pity from random strangers because you are hearing impaired. Nishtha Dudeja, Miss Deaf Asia 2018 is hearing impaired (100% hearing loss) since birth and she says that being labelled and slotted is among the saddest things in life.
She was in Hyderabad earlier in March for a private event and tells City Express about her struggles and wins. Nishtha says she had to work hard with speech therapy in her childhood to develop speech and linguistic skills. A Commerce graduate from Delhi University who is now pursuing MA Economics from Mithibai College, Mumbai, she won the titles of Miss Deaf India 2018 and Miss Deaf Asia 2018.
She says that winning the title has given her recognition in India as the first Indian to win any title at this prestigious Miss and Mister Deaf World Pageant in its 18 years’ history. “I feel empowered now as people seem to draw inspiration from my journey. I have interacted with the parents of many hearing impaired children, I find that they become hopeful for the future of their children after meeting me,” she adds.
Hearing impaired includes all the people having any degree of hearing loss, while deaf usually means a person with a severe to profound hearing loss. “I personally like to be called a hearing impaired, as ‘deaf’ sounds harsh and people have given it a negative twist. Words used to describe a person can make or mar their confidence,” she explains.
A Judo champion, she has also been an international lawn tennis, player, having played many AITA, Asian Tour Tennis and ITF tournaments. She was the captain of her school and college tennis team. She represented India in Deaflympics – 2013, World Deaf Tennis Championship – 2015 and Deaflympics – 2017. She has been recognised for her all-round achievements in the fields of education, sports, arts and culture by the government of India and conferred with National Award of Disability Empowerment in the category of “Role Model” by the Vice President of India in 2018.
What is the biggest challenge she has faced? Is it the sorry or pity looks she gets when they find out about her impairment? Or their insensitivity in trying to converse with her?
“Having been treated as a normal child by my parents, I have never liked people who try to pity on me. In fact, I have been taught by my parents to struggle and fail, rather than seeking sympathy or pity of the people and succeed. I hate it when someone puts special efforts to make me feel ‘normal’. I also come across people who think that the deaf people are dumb too. They would not pay heed to us or would be very insensitive towards us. For interacting with a hearing impaired person, you need to have a little patience as he/ she may not be able to understand your conversation if you speak at a faster pace. People need to be sensitive towards differently abled persons without being sympathetic,” says the beauty with a purpose.
“I was recently invited by my college, Sri Venkateswara College, New Delhi, where I did my graduation in Commerce, for giving a speech about my journey. It was a nostalgic moment as I remembered my college days where I studied the most interesting course, ate my favourite snack - chilli potato, made some amazing friends and met great teachers too. During these days, I was a little short on confidence in public speaking. Our Economics professor Ramaraju sir noticed it and he asked me to make a presentation. Although the professor could not attend the event, but he was happy when I told him that I had delivered the speech before a large audience there. Being invited by your own college to deliver a talk is always a special occasion,” she recalls.
“About 80% of the hearing impaired drop out before completing their high school education. Hearing impaired persons reaching up to the level of graduation is not even 1%. Main reason for lack of education is the difficulty in learning languages by the deaf persons. I would like the government to make available the hearing aids and speech therapy for the hearing impaired people at affordable prices so that they can learn to hear and speak,” she suggests.
Feathers in her cap
National Award of Disability Empowerment in the category of “Role Model” by Vice President of India in 2018.
TEDxTalk on ‘Sound of Victory’ in February, 2019
Showstopper at Fashion Magazine’ss Runway Fall Summer Fashion Week, Delhi in April, 2019
CSR Foundation’s Award for Professional Excellence and Leadership in August, 2018 in Mumbai
Mascot at Pinkathon 2019, Delhi with Milind Soman
Featured in Ability Magazine, one of the top 50 magazines in the world.
Brand Ambassador of Sivantos India Pvt. Ltd. (Formerly known as Siemens Hearing Instruments Ltd), the World’s largest manufacturer of hearing aids.
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