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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Sophia M Joe from Kochi - A sports champion, a super model, a Dreamer

Sophia Joe is a celebrated model and an athlete. A three-time national champion at shot put and discus throw, she has represented India at numerous international events. She is also a talented painter and jewellery designer. 
But none of these achievements makes her truly special. There is something beyond all these, which makes her a worthy contender for our Dream On story today...Read on....

An interviewer was all set to interview Sophia through email, but the night just before the interview date, the interviewer receives a call from Sophia’s mother, Goretti Joe, who requested a telephonic interview instead. 

"A telephone interview with Sophia? How is that possible?", thought the interviewer. "How am I going to establish a connection with her and get the answers to his questions?", worried the interviewer. 

But her mother told the interviewer not to worry, saying, “I’ll act as a translator between you and Sophia. I really think that this will work out well.”

The next day, the interviewer gave Goretti a call. “Sophia is sitting right next to me,” said Goretti. 
“It’s Ramesh. Say hello to him.” 

Right then, there was an unfamiliar sound from the other end. 

“Did you hear Sophia say hello?” Sophia's mother asks the interviewer. 

“Yes!” the excited interviewer responded. 

That was the first time this professional interviewer had had a conversation with someone who couldn’t speak, or listen - people whom our society rudely addresses as deaf and dumb.

“Sophia likes people who talk to her very much. She has a lot of friends. It is tough to understand her language at first, but after interacting with her for some time, you can understand what she says” explains Goretti. The interviewer couldn’t wait to listen to this wonder woman’s story as her mother narrated it. 

Neither could I. This is just another inspiring story of a woman who decides that it does not matter what you have - what truly matters is what you do with what you have.

Sophia was like any other child until she was 10 months old and no one noticed anything peculiar about her. One day, Sophia, Goretti, and a few other children were part of a procession. As the noise became louder, the other children started to cry, but not Sophia. She seemed unaffected. Worried, Sophia’s parents took her to the doctor who confirmed that the toddler was completely deaf. That came as a jolt to Goretti and her husband Joe Francis. But the couple was not ready to give up. The first thing they did was send her to a lip-reading session. “We wanted Sophia to be able to interact with everyone, unlike other deaf children who communicate only via sign language” says Goretti.

Childhood was not easy for this Kochi girl. Schools wouldn’t admit her. Her brother, Richard also suffered from the same condition. 

“It’s neither my children’s fault nor mine. They were born this way and nothing could help their state. But people made fun of us, taunted us as if we’d committed some sin.” says Sophia’s father Joe Francis. 

Remember the book Dream On? Dreamers are always taunted and made fun of. They are repeatedly told that they are attempting things which are ridiculous, stupid and impossible. Unfortunately, people are not at fault. They say such things because they simply cannot see what dreamers can.
[Recommended Book --> Dream On]

"Though we home-schooled her for some years, later we admitted her to an ordinary school in Kerala and trained her ourselves. We are always with her in fulfilling her ambitions and this infused much confidence in her.”, says her proud mother. Sophia's parents never wanted their children to be kept in the house as they had a disability. Moreover when their classmates isolated them, Mr. Joe Francis wanted to boost up their level of confidence. Hence they tried to bring out the best in their kids.

Later, she was enrolled into a regular school. That’s where she discovered her talent in sports. It is rightly said that when you have a disability on one side, God will surely bless you on the other side.

She went on to participate in many sporting events for the hearing and speech impaired and became a three-time national champion and eight-time state champion in discus throw and shot put.

Life took a different path when she met fashion choreographer, Dalu Krishnadas, who introduced her to modelling. She walked down the ramp for the very first time in the Les Mannequins Model Hunt 2010, where she won the title of Miss Congeniality. That was the beginning of a beautiful journey. Needless to say, there is lot of hard work behind the outward success.

"Sophia is extremely hard working when it comes to keeping her body in shape or following a diet."' says her father.

“It was always a dream of mine to walk down the ramp like Deepika Padukone and Rima Kallingal, but I thought that I could never do that. But my dream materialised when I walked the ramp for the first time.” 

Everything about pageants is simple for Sophia, except the Q and A round, which is still a worry for her as she finds it difficult to write the answers within the given time. “But when I face troubles, I tell myself there is no problem. I can do better,” she says. Dreamers visualize, as Sophia visualized walking like Deepika Padukone on stage.

Sophia has represented India in the Miss World Deaf and Dumb contest held at Prague, Czech Republic. She participated in the ‘Miss Deaf India 2014’ contest held at Delhi and bagged the first runner up position, thus getting entry to represent India in the Miss World Deaf and Dumb contest. She believes that her success in all fields will be a motivating factor for people like her. She wants to make the world believe that there are many things even the disable, or rather, differently-abled can do.

“I dislike the idea of being called disabled. I don’t think it is the disability that motivates me because I love to live as a normal person. The strength comes from the Almighty and from within."

While this Miss Deaf India runner-up enjoys every step in the world of fashion, she has tasted the bitter side of the industry too. She recalls the time when she had won a TV reality show for models, but none of her contenders congratulated her. 
“People who I thought were my friends didn’t even bother to congratulate me. No one has been in touch with me since.” she says.

“Every other disabled person has the boon of being able to talk to people. They can easily make others understand, unlike us,” says Sophia. But her disability isn’t strong enough to challenge her. Sophia feels that she is the happiest when travelling and driving.

Driving? Does she have a license? Oh yes! Did I forget to mention that Sophia is the first deaf woman from Kerala to receive a driving license - a feat for which she went on to knock on the doors of the Delhi High Court.

“Practice makes us perfect. I started off on the cycle and now I can drive scooters, bikes and cars. Thanks to my father who motivated me, driving is now a passion,” says Sophia.

She drives a two wheeler everyday. She is a graduate in English Literature from St Xavier’s College for Women, Aluva and used to driver herself from her home at Eroor in Kochi to her college.

She has also dubbed for a hearing impaired character in the movie "Bangkok Summer". Another field where she has tried her luck is the acting field. Sophia has acted in a movie for the differently abled named "Best Wishes". In all these fields she was totally successful and that boosted her confidence. She never thought about failure. Each attempt improved her.

For Sophia, her family is her biggest support. She believes she couldn’t have gotten anywhere without them. Upon finding out that their child was deaf, Sophia’s parents sent her for lip reading sessions and later admitted her to a regular school. They wanted her to have a normal life.

"I owe everything to my parents. My younger brother Richard is hearing-challenged. Our parents have given the best possible care for both of us. We wouldn’t have gone this far without them. Our happiness definitely comes from our parents.” she says.

She is a girl full of confidence and does not care about her weakness. According to Sophia she does not consider hearing impairment as a disability. She is optimistic and looks on her positive sides. She does not want anyone to look upon her as a disabled human. Of course there are things that she can't do and that makes her upset but at the same time the support and encouragement she gets from her family makes her to climb the steps of victory.

“A person needs a lot of encouragement and courage to do great things. But from my experience I have learnt that one needs the same to do simple things. It certainly hurts that I can’t do many things what others do. But then God has given me an indomitable spirit. I want to remain positive and pleasant in front of all obstacles. Well, life kicks you back and asks why. But you just have to stare back and ask, why not?” says Sophia.

The talented soul aspires to become a car racer in the times to come.

At 5 ft 8 inches, Sophia M. Joe stands tall, not just as a model, or a sportsperson, but as an inspiring role model.

Cheers Sophia. We are so proud of you. As I bow my head to this wonderful creation of God, I leave you with this video of hers..

So go on, Dream Big ! Do not let your reasons become a hurdle in achieving your dreams. Every setback is a little nudge from HIM for us to Dream On !

Are you ready to Dream On in life, and get set to lead an extraordinary life? 

Catch hold of this epic story of a dreamer, catch hold of the book.. Dream On.

Like it? Share it then. You may make someone's day or life.

Want to read more Dream On stories? Click here


Manoj Arora

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