Mallika Handa may not have been able to hear the deafening cheers of the spectators witnessing her entry into the history books, but had felt their sense of pride in her achievement when she became the first Indian girl to win a gold medal in the International Deaf and Dumb Chess Championship held from August 8 to 14 at Mongolia in 2015.
Malika, a hearing-impaired girl, who grew up in small-town Jalandhar, Punjab, was only introduced to the game of chess in 2010. However, she quickly developed an aptitude for game learning with his father and cousin brother. Handa didn’t let her disability define her career. She is a four-time gold medalist of the National Chess Championship for the Deaf and has also won a silver medal in the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD) worldwide World Deaf Blitz Chess Championship.
However, her journey has been full of struggle. After winning the national championship in Madhya Pradesh in 2013, she was supposed to go to Germany, but the Sports Authority of India did not send her due to some dispute with the international body. Mallika underwent trials at Indore. She won first place and gained an entry into the international tournament.
Though Mallika has a 90 percent hearing disability, she was given a seat in a regular college due to her expertise in chess. After all, she does not consider herself less than an ordinary child and wants to complete her education in the regular-stream. 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 she has not received any support from the government in terms of finance.
In 2019, Mallika was honoured by the National Disability Award, which was given by the President of India to all specially-abled people who had made the world move with their grit and determination in their respective fields. She received the award under the best sportsperson with disability category.