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"Wish to use my story, life, & work to empower people like me" - Miss Deaf World 2019 Vidisha Baliyan to NewzHook

Our Story of the Week is an interview with the new Miss Deaf World 2019. From Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, Vidisha Baliyan was an international-level tennis player and is now the first Indian to be win such a prestigious title. It's been a tough journey for Vidisha who has battled serious injuries. In an interview to NewzHook, this former international tennis player, she talks about these setbacks and why the title is much more than just about her.

NewzHook (NH): You are the first Indian to win this prestigious contest amidst tough competition. What are the qualities that worked in your favour?

Vidisha Baliyan (VB): My interest to learn and dedication worked in my favour. I am a student by heart and love learning. Thanks to my sports background, I am also disciplined and fitness-conscious. If I work towards something, I do not measure effort and commit to it 100%. I would say these qualities helped me in sports and at the beauty pageant.

Also, it's not just me. Many people who are deaf and hard of hearing are abundant in talent but lack a platform or opportunity to express it.

NH: Everyone sees the victory; few know of the hardship. You had to cope with a severe injury during your tennis career. Can you tell us a little about that?

VB: I had a severe lower back injury - the L-4, L-5 and S-1 discs slipped while I was preparing for the Deaflympics in Turkey. I came fifth in the doubles event even then and won the silver medal twice in the National Games.

Because of the injury, I couldn't cope with the strenuous practice and doctors suggested I take a break. I did that for 11 months and it was heart-breaking because sports meant the world to me. As a hard of hearing child, I could not shine in education, and sports taught me a lot.

NH: How did you prepare, both physically and mentally for the event?

VB: I believe half the battle lies in the mind. I was keen on making my mark in the pageant because I felt it would help provide a platform for people with hearing disabilities. God and prayers strengthened me, visualisation helped me prepare mentally, as did 20 minutes of daily meditation.

Appearance is important so I did yoga daily, some swimming and cardio to achieve optimum fitness levels. I followed a strict diet and all these factors worked well.

NH: The highlight of your rounds was the tandav you performed, which is a tough dance. How long did you take to get it right?

VB: Since childhood I have been copying the moves of Bollywood heroines. I love dancing and can learn it easily, so it wasn't challenging. I took lessons from Anupama Iyer for 15 days before the competition. I was very happy to perform the tandav before a global audience.

NH: What made you reach out to Paralympian Deepa Malik and her daughter for help?

VB: Deepa and Devika Malik helping me was a beautiful act of destiny. Deepa ma'am and I trained together at Siri Fort Stadium in 2013-14 under the same trainer. I find her passion to support disabled people is commendable, first by setting an example in her own right, and second, through her NGO Wheeling Happiness, which prepared me thoroughly.

NH: Future plans? You have been an exemplary tennis player and now a beauty contest winner. What next?

My single-minded goal is to support people like me and become a channel of opportunities for them. I am extremely excited to share with the world the importance of health, fitness and positivity for a good life. There have been many lows in my life, at time they still are, but life teaches you to not let it break you. I wish to use my story, life, and work to empower people like me. I know how it feels to be disabled in a society which is prone to judge easily. - Vidisha Baliyan, Miss Deaf World 2019

NH: What is the message you want to give specifically to other girls with disability?

VB: My message to them is - Believe in yourself and in the God, who created you. When I represented India in Turkey, I felt proud of my disability. I have 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 are given and prove to ourselves that we are not less than anyone.

ALSO READ:Miss Deaf World 2019 Vidisha Baliyan credits Paralympian Deepa Malik's Wheeling Happiness Foundation for win

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