‘Listen’ to your heart
Miss Deaf India and Miss Deaf Asia, and brand ambassador of Sivantos India Pvt Ltd, Nishtha Dudeja, who was in the city for the launch of 200th BestSound Centre, talks about her journey
Twenty-two-year-old Nishtha Dudeja is a real champ. Despite her hearing impairment, she has not only overcome all kinds of challenges but has also won accolades, titles and crowns. Dudeja, a former tennis player, participated in Miss Deaf India, under the aegis of All India Deaf Arts and Culture Society (AIDACS), organised by Rajputana Deaf Arts and Culture Society (RDACS). She won the Miss Deaf Asia 2018 title at the Miss and Mister Deaf World pageant. Dudeja is the first representative from India to win a title at this pageant since its inception 18 years ago.
Born with complete hearing loss, Dudeja attended a mainstream school and had to work very hard with speech therapy in her childhood. Today, she is the brand ambassador for Sivantos India Pvt Ltd (formerly Siemens Hearing Instruments Pvt Ltd) — a leading hearing aid brand. Recently, she was in Pune to launch the 200th BestSound Centre.
Talking about her association with Sivantos India and BestSound Centre, Dudeja says, “These centres provide the latest technological solutions to hearing problems. Siemens’s analogue machine was my first ‘behind the ear’ hearing aid. Since then, technology has evolved and today, I am using Signia Motion SP 7PX hearing aid which has all the latest features. I am very happy to note that Sivantos India is opening their Best Sound centres throughout the country which will make the latest hearing technology available to all the hearing impaired people.”
Dudeja’s parents came to know about her disability when she was three years old. “It was late detection because of lack of awareness and unavailability of modern facilities like BERA test in smaller towns at that time. Therefore, Sivantos and I are creating awareness among the people about hearing problems and solutions. I want to appeal to the parents of newly born children that they should get their kids tested as early as possible. Early detection of hearing loss is key to their rehabilitation. Early start of using hearing instruments and speech therapy helps in fast development of speech,” says Dudeja who originally hails from Ghaziabad and is currently pursuing MA (Economics) from Mithibai College, Mumbai.
Her parents always insisted that Dudeja attend a mainstream school. “I think every kid with hearing loss must attend regular schools so that they can be brought at par with other children and can communicate with everyone. Also, speech therapy is a must because not everyone knows sign language. If they go through speech therapy and are able to communicate, they won’t live in isolation and will have better job opportunities,” says Dudeja.
She started playing judo at the age of 7 and won many medals. At the age of 12, she started playing lawn tennis. She represented India thrice in international games, including Deaflympics 2013 held in Sofia, Bulgaria, World Deaf Tennis Championships 2015 held in Nottingham, UK, and Deaflympics 2017, held in Samsun, Turkey.
She believes that the word ‘deaf’ in the title Miss Deaf India or Miss Deaf Asia can be replaced. “Miss Hearing Impaired would sound better because it is a positive world. Deaf is a negative word and people often make fun of those who are hard of hearing or hearing impaired. By saying ‘hearing impaired’ it doesn’t sound that we are begging for any kind of sympathy,” says Dudeja who believes in equal treatment and opportunities for all.
At the talent round, she won everyone’s heart when she danced to Nagada Sang Dhol Baaje, however, she admits that she didn’t know the bhangra. “I am a Punjabi but I didn’t know the bhangra, so I had to learn it from a dance teacher for the competition,” adds Dudeja who was conferred the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in the Role Model category in 2018. She aims to work for underprivileged sections of society and the differently abled. Dudeja insists, “They don’t need pity. They can prove themselves if provided with equal opportunities.”
Ask her what message would she like to give others, and she promptly replies, “Always follow your heart and passion. You must have good intentions about everything and everyone. Never think ill of others. I believe nothing is impossible. If you are dedicated to your dreams and work hard to achieve them, nothing can stop you. There will always be people who will tell you, ‘you can’t do it’ or ‘you can’t achieve this’ but you must never let self-doubt and people’s comments stop you from your goals.”
Many people discouraged her from participating in a beauty pageant saying that she was a tennis player and had an athletic body, which was not ideal for pageants. “I didn’t only participate, but also won the title. So don’t let others dictate your mind, they won’t accomplish what you believe in,” she adds.
She stopped playing tennis and started to focus on preparing for the title. “I learnt how to walk the ramp and apply make-up. It wasn’t easy, but I had to do it and prove others wrong and set an example for those who are differently abled and often get affected by what others tell them,” she concludes.