Triumph of the mind

BRAVING THE ODDS: Joby Mathew, who won three medals at the World arm Wrestling Championship held in Utsunomiya, Japan, recently.  

Joby Mathew wants to climb Mount Everest one day. And it may not be a wise idea to bet against him, though he stands barely three-and-a-half foot tall and has virtually no legs.

Won bronze medal

Doctors may have certified him as 65 per cent disabled, but all his life he has been proving that he has a mind hundred per cent stronger than many able-bodied men. In the Japanese city of Utsunomiya recently, he showed he could overpower some of the strongest of them physically too, as he won a bronze medal in the open category of the World arm-wrestling championship. He picked up a couple of medals in the disabled category as well, but of course it is his triumph against the `normal people' (as he calls them) that he cherishes more.

"It was not easy competing against all those strong men from different countries of the world," Joby told The Hindu in Kozhikode on Monday. "I was at a big disadvantage against them because they could draw a lot of strength from their lower limbs. And I also lacked experienced at the international level; it was my first meet."

And he was able to take part in it only because of Tamil film actor Sharat Kumar, a former Mr. Madras himself. Sharat gave him Rs. 1 lakh when he came to know of Joby's failed attempts to raise finance for the Japanese tour.

"I was shocked when I got a call from him on my mobile last month. I couldn't believe it really was the hero whom I've seen in many films. He said that he was soon coming to Kerala for the shooting of his film `Khaki' and asked me to meet him in Kochi. He gave me Rs. 25,000 on our first meeting itself."

Noble gesture

The 28-year-old says he was moved by the star's gesture. "He came forward to help me out when the people who mattered in my own State did nothing."

Things are looking up for Joby now though. "The Kerala Sports Council has now promised to help me buy the equipment for fencing," he says.

Yes, fencing. He has been practising hard at this sport with the aim of winning a medal for India in the next Paralaympics, scheduled to be held in Peking in 2008. "Unfortunately, arm-wrestling is not a discipline either at the normal Olympics or at the Paralympics, so I am determined to work hard at fencing."

It's not just in the sporting arena that Joby, who hails from a little village called Adukkom in Kottayam district, has made a mark. He has danced on more than 600 stages. ("While I was a student I used to do break dance and some comic numbers.")

He is a Law graduate and is working as the public relations officer at Rajagiri College of Social Sciences, Kalamassery.

He is also deeply involved with the activities of the Kerala Rehabilitation Institute for Physically Affected, an NGO. "I would like to think that people like me are not disabled, but differently abled," he says. "And I want to tell that to the entire world by climbing Mount Everest."

P.K. Ajit Kumar