Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Around the World: India

Around the World is an occasional series celebrating the female bodybuilders of a particular country, and examining any issues peculiar to muscle women there.

You are the embodiment of those who want to beat the odds to achieve excellence.

It doesn't seem that long ago that FMS was writing about Ashwini Waskar, an Indian female bodybuilder from Mumbai who, when competing, was obliged to wear a more modest sports bra and shorts on stage rather than a normal posing suit. Since then we've reported on the Indian media's celebration of Shweta Rathore's international success, seen how Elle India congratulated seven muscular women for "overthrowing every feminine stereotype", met India's IFBB Figure pro Deepika Chowdhury, and most recently the 17-year-old sensation from West Bengal, Europa Bhowmik.

The times, at least for muscular women in India, appear to be changing. And changing fast. Deepika Chowdhury was in the country's national media towards the end of January after she became the first Indian woman to be invited to compete at the Arnold Classic in Australia, and a couple of weeks ago Shweta Rathore (again) and Thingbaijam Sarita Devi found themselves being celebrated in the international and national media for winning different (as far as I can tell anyway) Miss India titles.

One picture accompanying the news about the 34-year-old Devi allegedly shows her with Indian cricket deity Sachin Tendulkar (if you are not familiar with him, then think of your national sport, now think of the greatest ever player, alive or dead - Sachin, retired but very much alive, is the Indian equivalent). Apparently he is "an admirer".

Unfortunately - and I say that because it would be really nice if I could report Indian female bodybuilders were getting celebrity admirers - this is not actually true. Sachin is, unless I'm very much mistaken, an admirer of Laishram Sarita Devi, India's first professional female boxer and quite a celebrity in her own right in India, and not (yet) an admirer of Thingbaijam Sarita Devi, champion Indian female bodybuilder.

As well as her 2016 Miss India title, Thingbaijam has previously represented her country and brought home medals from Asian championships - hardly surprising given the size of those arms - and I imagine Thingbaijam'll be representing India once again this year. She has become a real beast, as one delighted forum poster puts it.

Meanwhile, in a corner of India so remote that the Chinese government doesn't even acknowledge parts of its most north-eastern state - Arunchal Pradesh - are, in fact, Indian territory, the "only female bodybuilder" there, Paklu Taipodia, has been making regional news recently, and not only because she's had contest successes.

A mother of three and a former competitive weightlifter, Paklu was 5th in a national event at the end of last year, and began 2017 by winning the Eastern India Miss Fitness title - an achievement widely reported in the regional Indian media. Perhaps most significantly though, when Paklu travelled with her husband to meet Arunchal's Chief Minister at the end of January, she was promised "every help from the state government in future competitions at national and international level".

State assistance for female bodybuilding? I like this Chief Minister. Pema Khandu is his name and that's him shaking Paklu's hand above. I like him a lot. And the quote that began today's post - You are the embodiment of those who want to beat the odds to achieve excellence - that's his. He is, apparently, a "keen sports enthusiast", and according to Indian media was "astounded by her sheer determination and courage".

State assistance for female bodybuilding! Only, it seems, in India.

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