Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Mrs Swell's Easter Surprise: India

OK, so as I said yesterday, Mrs Swell has sprung an Easter surprise for yours truly in the shape of a two-week sunshine break. Bit of a spanner in the works though because ol' Swell's passport has only gone and bloody expired. The joys of the passport office - not to mention the "fast track" fee - await me today. Anyway, as I also said yesterday, don't blame the lady if, for a while, the posts are not of the usual standard.


Today, a brief trip to India. Again.


It's not that I'm particularly interested in the country's muscle women, it's just that the size of its English language media makes it so much easier for me to keep my eye on the Indian scene than it is to keep track of developments in, for example, South Korea.

And that media is churning out female muscle stories at the moment.

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Front and centre for some of that attention is, of course, Deepika Chowdhury, India's only IFBB pro. Her 7th place in the Arnold Australia last month was widely reported in the online Indian media, even as she was bemoaning how unknown she remains. I am the only Indian woman to represent the country, but not too many people seem to be even aware of this sport, said the molecular biologist from Pune.


Given that in pretty much all of the rest of the world the situation is exactly as she describes it, I reckon Deepika should think herself a bit luckier than she does. No British woman has ever had their bodybuilding triumphs - not to mention a 7th place! - reported in the national media as far as I know - at least not in a story written specifically about the contest they've competed at. Local media, yes, often, but national media coverage is unheard of. And though I'm sure it is true there is a lack of public awareness in India, the media seem to be doing all they can to rectify that.

101 India's mission, they say, is to report on "India's evolving subculture scene - people whose beliefs, values, styles, and attitudes differ from that of the prevailing culture". Expect a few more muscle women on their YouTube channel in future.

Beauty of it is, I've been pretty much following Indian FBBs for the best part of two years now, and new names, like Yashmeen Chauhan Manak, just keep popping up all the time. Similarly, nor had I come across fitness model Ankita Singh, whose muscular beauty headlines today's post, before I read about her on the female-centric and somewhat bizarrely-titled Indian news website The Ladies Finger.


Same article, and I find another new name - Karuna Waghmare, who, as you can see above, is not one of those "small b" bodybuilders. Her chest and calf muscles ripple even when she’s simply sitting across from me, gushes the article's author, Chatura Rao, who does an excellent job with it, speaking to a variety of women - including the ubiquitous Deepika Chowdhury... I touch her arm in greeting when we meet and feel the warm firm muscles, writes Rao. Read the whole piece (gushes and all) here.


A similar theme to Rao's piece can be found in a report by Delhi-based journalist Ravinder Bawa, ie. it's all about breaking down barriers in a traditionally conservative culture. Female bodybuilders in India have ignored criticism, she writes. It will take sometime before the sport becomes common among women, but until then many are overcoming milestone after milestone to make a path for others. And you can watch her report (with footage of a national-level contest including, among others, teenage sensation Europa Bhowmik - see previously on FMS) on CGTN America.


And tomorrow? Who knows?

I'll probably have time to jot some ideas down at the passport office though...

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