Women are starting to reign in every sphere. In contrast to a world of the 90s where women pilots, doctors or for that matter police personnel were scarcely seen, these days there are professions that welcome women with open arms. You name it and the ladies have made their mark in these. Stop for a second and think about bodybuilding in India. If left to your imagination, would you come to terms with a petite woman being a star of the field? That’s what the 21st century has done.
While abs, biceps and crunches are the new alphabets in town, we ask Nishriin Parikh who is a bodybuilder, just how gender-biased the sport really is, and if India needs to flex a little more!
Women are acing in bodybuilding in India
“A new category has been introduced in bodybuilding at the regional, state and national levels. This is model physique,” says Nishriin. “When one perceives a bodybuilder, you think of muscles, muscles and more muscles. There’s hypertrophy and enlargement of the muscle volume is what gives rise to that kind of a body.”
“However, with the introduction of the model physique, women are expected to have a symmetrical body as opposed to hardcore competitive anatomy. This kind of body is something that is more pleasing to the eye. Women thus need not engage in building their muscles, but rather focus on getting in shape.”
A staunch athlete, Nishriin Parikh is India’s pride. Reason? This mother of two holds the Nation’s flag high at every bodybuilding championship she is a part of. At the age of 54 Nishriin Parikh is more active than most youth. With a silver bob-cut to compliment her slim, toned torso, she is the founder of Yoga Strength, an initiative to improve physical and mental well-being.
As she speaks of bodybuilding and the scene of its evolution, there’s a spark in her eye. She believes gender biases can be conquered. But how?
Stereotypical norms often entail women being pushed to the sidelines, and in a sport which is dominated with bulky manly outlines, can women really fit in? Nishriin says yes.
Women should be encouraged to take part in bodybuilding in India
Currently, the brand ambassador for GNC, Nishriin says the secret is living your passion. “Everyone should have a goal,” she says as she goes on to express hers of being up there making the country proud and taking part in a number of championships.
“Women are often not encouraged enough to put in their best. They are held back from acing or even so much as testing their true capabilities.” To this, she adds that ironically, though the world judges this sport as masculine, the mentality of females not fitting in does not exist on field, or in this case, in the gym.
“You have to be firm. If you are headstrong, nothing can stop you. Not anyone’s mentality nor anyone’s words. People are kind. It is you who has to be the kindest to yourself,” adds this athlete - the only one to actively participate in Asian and world bodybuilding championships at the age of 54.
Bodybuilding at the age of 54 - a challenge
As we try and get our head around the fact that a quinquagenarian looks as fit as a 20-year-old, Nishriin says it hasn’t been easy, but motivation led the way. “The only roadblocks I have in actual faced were age. A hysterectomy added to the challenges,” she says as she goes on to speak about defying ageing and everything else that comes with it.
“When you sit to think of it, I could have sat back. Menopause could have got me to balloon up and say no to working out. But I chose the other path. The world operates on the phenomenon of movement. When the Universe is in motion, why should I not be? The body when left as is, starts to stagnate. It is only movement that keeps us going.”
With a journey that began as a martial artist and a black belt in karate, and then spiralled only higher, Nishriin decided to test her strengths to the fullest.
Right from pushing her boundaries, to mentoring others to push theirs, Nishriin has been teaching aerobics and pilates and yoga. “Fitness can be achieved. If I can do it, so can you,” she says as she highlights the integral role diet plays. “The tongue can be naughty and interrupt the desire to be fit. Be wise what you eat, and the rest can be figured out.”
That brings us to the question: Is a good figure that important?
Bodybuilding: a sport that thrives on appearances?
In a world where we’re trying to convince everyone who will listen that looks can be deceptive, here’s a sport that glorifies them, that is all about appearances and being hot! Curious to know how Nishriin will defend this, we ask “In a sport that thrives on looks, do you still believe looks don’t matter?”
She chides, “Everything beautiful is appealing. Deny as you may, beauty attracts. You hop off to theatres to watch pretty girls or handsome men. You aim to look like them. Who are we kidding! Everyone wants to have an appeal. While the world is about aesthetic, you’ve got to bring out the best in you. There’s an underlying beauty. Bodybuilding helps that beauty see the light of day.”
Discipline is key, she notes. “Bodybuilding in India is not a piece of cake. There are direction and focus and more that are part of the sport.”
Nishriin strongly believes we spend money on the wrong things. “People love dressing up, but if you don’t have the body to carry it off, what’s the use? You can spend thousands or more on bags and shoes and accessories. It’s time you invest in yourself, eh?”
People often refer to me as a legend. “It is you who make your life worthy, I tell them.”