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Meet Deepika Chowdhury: A molecular biologist who has become India's first pro female body-builder

Shattering "Indian Housewife" stereotypes, the 32-year old went from brain to brawn within two years.

Deepika after winning a tournament in 2015

Bodybuilding has yet again produced an international level athlete, but this time on the professional stage. Deepika Chowdhury from Pune recently became India’s first professional female body-builder, after being accepted by the International Federation of Body Building (IFBB) earlier this year.

For the past two years she has been competing in the US circuit, climbing the hierarchy to garner ‘pro’ status. An emphatic journey across the country’s landscape saw her win all the five tournaments she participated in. Competing in the ‘figure category,’ the 31-year old would travel to America on her own expense, because of the genre’s non-existence in the sub-continent.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that Deepika’s journey to reach bodybuilding’s crème de la crème destroys every potential stereotype present in India.

Pune to Florida: A fairytale streak

Beginning her career in research as a Molecular Biologist, she treated body-building as a fitness-based activity. She said, “It was an incredible two – three years! I used to do weights back in 2012, around that time I visited the Sheru Classic and saw the best bodybuilders from the World. Then I heard of the Figure category, which in India was never there. All categories in female bodybuilding are not yet evolved, as it has happened in western countries,” she said.

She added, “I was always a very sporting person – ran 400m, 800m and played a lot of kho-kho. It was around when I was 12 that I first saw weights.”

Deepika with one of her first titles

After perfecting and learning her craft in 2013, Deepika found instant success in her first ranking tournament in Florida. She said, “It was a major risk of course, it’s the US and ticket, stay isn’t cheap at all. But, when they announced my name as the winner it was worth it. I know I’m good at what I do, so this is a major investment.”

Her latest victory at the Eastern USA championships tournament saw Deepika leave the stage to a standing ovation. She added, “That feeling, they don’t care which country you’re from, but they are motivating you to do something you give you 100 % in, what can be better than that? You tell me..”

Losing has not been an emotion Deepika has faced yet. Victories at the Fort Lauderdale Cup, NPC Metropolitan Championship and the Atlantic state championship and Eastern USA championship. in New Jersey, cemented her pro card.

Indian Women are the most hard-working in the world, success in sport is a natural progression: Deepika

During her US competition stint, she met ‘Olympian’ Gennifer Strobo, who guided her through the various transition periods. Despite a long winning streak and a positive feedback from the professional circuit, Deepika is yet garner any financial help.

Deepika with two back to back tournament trophies last year

She said, “There is only one company, Jerai Fitness which supported 30 % of my fourth US trip. Apart from that I have spent Rs 10 lakhs from my own pocket. My bank balance is currently zero. All my savings in research are over. I’m very lucky my husband has also supported me, because each event costs me around Rs 2.5 lakhs. Some companies from the US have contacted me, but nothing from India yet.”

Deepika also describes herself as an ‘Indian housewife,’ stating that adhering to societal guidelines will never let one know their full potential. She added, “I would like to tell every female body builder in India, never let anyone tell you what your potential is. You can only discover that by yourself, Indian women are the most hard-working in the world, our success on the sporting front is a natural progression. However, we must not let negative factors and self-doubt distract us from our goals.”

She added, “Indian bodybuilding has been doing well off late, I hope this will spur a growth for female bodybuilders. The number currently in the country is 10-20, but it is increasing. We have to take the responsibility to do well, so that people can see us and get motivated.”

Having attained a wealth of success in such a short time, the bodybuilding fraternity is already speculating on an Olympia qualification for Deepika. She added, “I would like to get into the fitness world right now, so that I can create my own brand there. The road to Olympia is a difficult one as I have to win at least two pro tournaments, so that will be a long journey. Let’s hope I have enough financial backing and good performances to travel that road.”

Deepika’s story of glory is one that gives us the audacity to dream beyond fear. In her own words, “I have no sample, I have no one from India to look up to, what I do here now will hopefully help chart the same road.” Through her journey to Olympia, Deepika has created a professional path for every other Indian female bodybuilder to follow.

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