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TBI Blogs: How a 21-Year-Old Girl Overcame Disability & Govt Apathy to Become an International Chess Champion

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Meet one of India’s best chess players, who has received recognition all over the world for her skills. Despite the lack of funding and acknowledgement from the Government, this young lady continues to revolutionise the game. 

Watching a truly gifted chess player is like watching magic in motion. The intensity is unparalleled, their brains working at a furious pace, calculating and recalculating moves before gently – almost anti-climatically – sliding a piece across the board. As any Indian kid knows, chess is about brain power. For Malika Handa, a hearing-impaired little girl who grew up in small-town Jalandhar, Punjab, it was a godsend.

How It All Started

Though Malika was only introduced to the game late in life—she’s only been playing since 2010—she quickly developed an aptitude for the game that outpaced all her peers. She says, “I started playing when I was studying in school. My father brought a chessboard home and I started playing with my cousin brother. That’s how I got interested in chess.”

When she began beating her father with ease, he took notice. That’s how her career as a professional chess player began. Malika adds, “My family has been my biggest support, and I can honestly say that without my family, I cannot win in such a way.”

Malika Handa

Hurdles In Her Path

Malika is extremely positive, and determined to make the most of life. She doesn’t allow her disability to define her. However, she has faced some bumps in the road. She admits, “Competing with ‘normal’ boys and girls is my biggest challenge.” However, she has risen to the occasion and is intent on making the most of life. She has opted to join a college with others in her age group, and though she finds it hard, (“I have to get distinction in the normal category also.”) she’s thriving.

But perhaps the biggest roadblock she’s faced is the lack of aid from the government. She’s one of the country’s most prodigious chess champions, but says that the government has offered her little to no financial support.

Malika says, “My family has spent a huge amount on my chess game. I’m sorry to say that the government hasn’t given me any help at any stage. I’m really upset with the behavior of the state and central government.”

Malika Handa

Malika Handa – The Big Winner

Malika has amassed a list of enviable titles, making her a forcet to be reckoned with on a global scale. She has been the national champion in her category thrice, a silver medalist at the World Championship for the deaf, Asian Champion at the Asian Individual Chess Championship for the deaf, and is the current title holder at the World Individual Open Deaf Chess Championships 2016.

In six years, she has accumulated more titles than veterans a decade older, and she’s confident she’s just starting out!

Despite facing quite a few obstacles, Malika remains confident, poised, and ready to take on the world. As someone who smiles in the face of adversity, and even signs off on emails as ‘Malika Handa (World Champion)’, Malika definitely has a great inspirational future ahead of her!

Originally published on KnowYourStar. Visit our website for more such articles, or hop by our Facebook page for daily inspiration.

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Written by KnowYourStar

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KnowYourStar is an educational website imparting positive journalism, while educating rural youth through their Mentor India program.