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 – and almost anti climatically – sliding a piece across the board. As the average 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 later 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 started playing with my cousin brother. So that’s how I got interested in Chess.”
When she began beating her father with ease, he took notice. And 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.”
Hurdles In Her Path
Malika Handa is extremely positive and determined to make the most of life. She doesn’t allow her disability to define her. That’s not to say that she hasn’t 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 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 and she 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 – The Big Winner
Malika has amassed a list of enviable titles, making her a force 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 the current title holder at the World Individual Open Deaf Chess Championships 2016.
In six years, she’s accumulated more titles than veterans a decade older than her, and she’s just getting started!
Despite all the obstacles she’s faced, Malika remains confident, poised, and ready to take on the world. We can’t help but root for someone who not only smiles in the face of adversity, but signs off on emails as ‘Malika Handa (World Champion)’. We can’t wait to see what she does next!
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