What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘bodybuilder’? Most would say a bulky man with bulging muscles seen on advertisements for gyms and covers of men’s magazines. Very few would equate bodybuilder with a woman, much less a Indian woman.
Which is what makes Ashwini Waskar, India’s first competitive female body builder, so unique. She not only defies gender stereotypes but crosses cultural barriers as well.
It all started when she joined a gym to maintain her fitness in Mumbai and completed a basic training course which caught her interest. When she returned to her hometown in Raigad after that, she visited the local gym, Hanuman Vyayamshala and surprised the owner Rajesh Angad by performing the same routines as male bodybuilders.
The 32-year-old was then prompted by Angad to take up bodybuilding properly which lead to a transformation both physically and mentally, giving her impressive muscalutre and the confidence to do something unprecedented.
She used to work at a senior research fellow at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education but quit her job to concentrate on bodybuilding full time.
A report quotes Waskar as saying, “An announcement was being made there (at a bodybuilding event) about the upcoming first national level female bodybuilding competition and they were asking if anybody wants to participate. So I thought ‘why not give it a try?’”
In a span of few months, she worked on her body and ended up coming fifth among the seven contestants at the national-level event.
But Waskar’s journey was not without its fair share of problems. While the men in bodybuilding get recognition and thereby sponsorship, she finds it difficult to earn money through her vocation. Currently, her father pays for all the expenses she incurs. Her food supplements itself cost her Rs 20,000 per month. According to a report by Indiatimes, she even had to sell her gold chain for one event in Mumbai.
However, she has the full support of her family and she said, “My father has assured me that he will continue supporting me. I am also exploring ways to do it.”
Another problem is that the attire as bodybuilding requires participants to wear revealing clothes and coming from a conservative household, Waskar wasn’t very comfortable in bikinis initially. Her brother Niranjan said, “When I heard that shorts were worn in the competition I was a little worried. We are a middle class family.” However her father and other family members supported her in this as well.
Waskar remains optimistic about the future in the sport in India. “We have to work harder. I’m now training a lot of women, and tell them not to be scared of bodybuilding. After I built my body, I asked my father’s permission to wear a bikini and enter a competition, where I flaunted my curves and muscle power. It gave me a lot of confidence,” she is quoted.
We hope that Waskar’s story motivates many other women to pursue their dreams and overcome stereotypes.