Vidisha Baliyan – a journey from dis-ability to different abilities
23 year old Vidisha Baliyan has a hearing impairment but has defied all odds to overcome her disability and emerge as a true role model for the disabled community. A national level sports player, winner of Miss Deaf 2019, a Ted-X speaker, there is no stopping this lady on a mission.
Q. Give us a peek into your initial years growing up in Muzaffarnagar, UP?
VB: It was at the age of 5, when my parents sensed that there was something different about me. A visit to the doctor confirmed that I have a hearing impairment. His advise to my parents was that I be put in a special school. But my parents were keen that I attend a regular school and live a normal life like other children. Understandably, my school life was quite challenging and I did face a lot of problems. Up until the 5th or 6th grades things were relatively fine as I could view what my teachers were writing on the blackboard. As the grades went up, it became difficult because the teachers were instructing and dictating orally. I honed my skills of reading lips and began grasping what others were saying or talking to me.
Q. How did you overcome the challenges that arose due to the hearing disability? What helped you to take it in your stride?
VB: It was really not easy for me to overcome the negative thoughts and situations but my mom stood strong & by my side through the difficult patches. Sometimes my mom scolded me and at times she also made me understand how things work. She always said, “Vidisha if you want to be successful then you have to survive and be strong because you are in this society and there will be the situations. You have to learn both situations and accept yourself as what you are”. I started accepting myself over time and also started loving myself by watching motivational videos.
Q. You are an international level Tennis Player! Tell us about your foray into sports.
VB: When I was nine years old I used to play basketball during summer and winter vacations in Welham Girls School in Dehradun. My coach noticed me and suggested to my maternal grandfather that I should play basketball professionally since I had a good physique too. I then started playing professionally but the problem was that I could not respond when my team players wanted me to pass the ball. Based on my uncle’s suggestion to choose an individual game, I then started playing tennis in 2009 in Dehradun. Initially I came as a runner up in the state level. Gradually my game improved and led me to the National Level in the normal category itself. In 2016, I read about Deaflympics in a newspaper and got excited about the opportunity. I started preparing for the same and got the fifth position in Tennis Doubles in 2017 Deaflympics held in Turkey.
Q. How does it feel to be the first ever Indian woman to win the title of Miss Deaf World in 2019?
VB: My single-minded goal to win the pageant was to support people like me and be a conduit of opportunities for them. I am also extremely excited to share with the world the importance of health, fitness and positivity and how important these aspects are for a good life. My biggest transition was to change my rough-sportsperson like persona to a delicate one. When I entered the beauty industry I had to take good care of my skin and hair in particular. Also my body had to be molded from an athlete to a feminine figured one. My walk had to be changed and overall personality grooming was a big part of the changes I underwent.
My first particular memory was when I practiced international sign language which I found difficult but somehow managed. The Miss Deaf World was such a memorable and fun experience for me. Though it’s a competition, the environment was filled with fun practices, games and events. We contestants had a great time together and I really bonded with my roommate during the event.
5. How important are physical and mental well-being to you?
VB: It is very important to be fit mentally and physically.You need to be mentally prepared for every situations. Whenever I feel low, I do meditation, speak to myself positively and watch motivational videos. God and prayers strengthened me, Visualization helps me and a daily meditation practice of 20 minutes play a key role to prepare me mentally.
Q. You are a 3-times Ted-X speaker. Have these platforms helped you in taking your inspiring story forward?
VB: Yes, As I always wanted to inspire those people who feel low themselves. These platforms have helped me reach out to the masses who I hope can gain hope and strength from my story and challenges.
Q. Is India as a country sensitised towards individuals with disabilities?
VB: There is still a lot to be done for people with any form of disability in India. In some places the people are aware and understanding but in few places the sesnitisation is still not there. But yes, the scenario is better today as compared to earlier times and we are slowly seeing the change in perception and behavior in people.
Q. What message would you like to share with others who are facing some aspect of disability in their lives?
VB: My message to people with disability would be, ‘to believe in yourself and in the God who created you’. To accept yourself as you are and to love yourself is the biggest gift you can give yourself. Help everyone, ignore what you don’t have and appreciate what you have are extremely important for your peace of mind. Also, discover your ability and convert it into your talent or strength.
I have with time stopped feeling sorry for myself or ashamed about my ‘disability’ and I would request every disabled person to stop drowning in self-pity. Let’s make the best of life with what we’re given and prove to ourselves that we are not less than anyone.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
VB: My single-minded goal which helped me win the contest is to open a foundation for the deaf community, which is abundant in talent but lacks opportunities and platforms. I have seen both sides of the coin in life – the good and the bad. My aim is to not just provide platforms for the deaf but also to bring awareness about the challenges of the deaf or disabled people in the mainstream. With awareness, people become empathetic and understanding.
Quick 3 with Vidisha
1 Your Mantra in Life – Always be learning.
2. Disability is – I don’t have a dis-ability, I have a different-ability.
3. One change you want to see / bring – Understand the problem of others rather than judge.