The Kochi Post had recently published a story on the hearing-impaired model Sophia M. Joe. Throughout her life, she has faced various constraints.
Sophia, according to her parents, has excelled in whatever she tried her hands at and the only drawback that keeps her away from being a normal individual is that she can’t hear. She is an athlete, a model, dancer and a painter. This talented girl has also represented India at the Miss World Deaf and Dumb Contest. She is also the first deaf and dumb person in our state to have a driving license. These achievements mean a lot to a person who has competed with other children to win various awards, who are of her same age, and do not have any constraints like Sophia.
However, while all media houses are projecting bright days ahead for Sophia, the truth is that Sophia is finding it very difficult to live in Kerala, because she feels that our society will never accept people like her. Mr. Francis has more than one experience to prove it, which he shares with us.
“My daughter is an all-rounder. From her childhood onwards we were particular that Sophia learns all that a normal child does and that is why we encouraged her to pursue extracurricular activities also along with academics. And most of the time she used to surprise us as well as her teachers with the dedication she had and by excelling in everything she does. My daughter was a state champion in shot put and discus throw and therefore we admitted her under a professional coach but she couldn’t complete it as she was finding it extremely difficult to cope up with people who always made her feel that no matter how fast she runs, she will always be one step behind them,” says Mr. Francis, who is highly disappointed by the way children with disabilities are treated in our society.
Though modelling was an option selected by Sophia’s father to keep her occupied, it soon became her passion and as always Sophia also tried to meet all the criteria required for a talented model. Confidence was always her forte and she groomed her looks and body all by herself, remembers Sophia’s mother Goretti Francis. Her hard work paid off when started getting fashion shows and won the supermodel show on Amrita Television.
However, Sophia’s parents very soon understood that the industry demands a lot of compromise from a model’s side in order to become successful and neither Sophia nor her parents were ready for that. According to Mrs. Joe, it was one of the main reasons why their daughter was being sidelined as she was always accompanied by either of them and the organisers and show directors did not like that. She says that even the government was not bothered by the fact that a girl from Kochi will represent India in the Miss World for Dead and Dumb contest and did not give it any importance as given to other beauty pageants. Unlike other countries, not a single person was appointed by the Government of India to help Sophia at the Miss World competition that took place at the Czech Republic. Mrs. Joe says they really had a tough time at Prague mainly because of the communication gap between the organisers, because none of them there could understand English and they didn’t have an interpreter like other countries did.
Sophia has finished her bachelor’s degree and is at a turning point in her life now, where she needs to opt for a career and get settled in a couple of years as every girl aspires to. However, Mr. Francis says that his daughter is in a situation where she is being rejected despite being highly talented. He complaints that only talents of people who are “physically fit” are considered when it comes to showcasing it on a larger platform.
Mr. and Mrs. Francis are very proud of their children, both of whom are hearing impaired but live their lives without seeking any sympathy or favour from others. Sophia now plans to go to Delhi where she believes she will get a new platform that opens new windows of hope for her that will give her all that she wants from life and also an opportunity to earn something for her parents.