I want to make women understand that if they put their mind into anything, they can definitely conquer it. We, women, have the power to make an impact. I am astounded by a common criticism about women bodybuilders, that they are not possibly feminine. But tell me, how do you even measure femininity? If they think that the only condition to be masculine is to look muscular, they are wrong. Femininity is being a woman, simply a woman, and that’s the end of it.
Indian society has often relished a particular image of what it actually means to be feminine. Of course, there were people who commented on my biceps while judging me for the kind of clothes I wear. They would always say, ‘You look too manly!’ But if you ask me, it is a compliment. If being curvy and feeling strong from inside is considered manly, I’ll instead take pleasure in it. Because bodybuilding makes me feel genuinely confident and beautiful, besides making me feel powerful.
It is sheer hard work to build muscle, not many people understand that. Just like is the case with any sport, the fact that you’re pursuing it and being recognised is very powerful mentally. We tend to sexualise bodybuilding, and I think it is a facet that it is often focussed on way too much. But even after all the resistance, it all comes back to confidence. When you go into it with a healthy mindset, your body will reflect just that. Not just a strong mind, but a strong body too.
Kiran Dembla (Image: SportzBusiness)
I never let the negative responses affect my mental health. They don’t deter my spirit now, and neither it could in 2013. That was the year when I became the only woman to get a direct entry into the World Bodybuilding Championships held in Budapest, Hungary.
The initial years when I started off were difficult. The most important thing is that I am a daughter-in-law, but a mother above everything. And it is a real challenge for any mother to wear a bikini. I checked with my husband and tried to convince him into letting me participate in the event, but he refused. He did not say a word. But, I had become stubborn.
I was a different person some ten years ago. I was married off, gave birth to two children, and got involved with the household chores. Life meant serving the family, 24x7. To be involved with fitness was no dream, let alone build six-pack abs. But life had other plans. Years after the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with a blood clot in my brain. I was taken aback and equally shattered. You know, I looked at myself in the mirror and realised how much I had lost myself in the years. I had no idea what I was doing with my life, it was almost as if I had done nothing with my life by the time I aged 30 years. I was obese, weighing 75 kg and it looked like nothing similar to the time I was in college. In the process of looking after the family, I had somehow lost myself.
Kiran Dembla (Image: Twitter)
Somehow, the medicines prescribed by the doctors started making me feel nauseated and exhausted. I was once a post-graduate in classical music, I just wondered what I was doing with my life. The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise, that’s how I learnt to love myself again. A housewife for some ten-odd years, I started feeling miserable about myself. All I thought was, ‘Main kya kar rahi hun, maine zindagi mein kya kiya hain? Aise hi zindagi beet jaayegi.’
That’s how I enrolled myself in swimming classes to shed body fat. But soon I discontinued swimming, I started looking for something else. I attended multiple yoga sessions along with a few friends. I was regular, and that had piqued my interest to join the gym sessions. The biggest transformation was to follow. In seven months’ time, I managed to shed almost 24 kilos. I can recall how amazing it was to feel like myself again. I started caring for myself again.
If I trace back to how it all began, I was not the kind of person who stepped out of the house much. Women in the household had to come back by 6 in the evening. Little by little, I started adjusting myself to a different routine. I started leaving the house to attend yoga sessions, or for swimming. Stepping outside the door was initially very difficult, but once you do it, you start getting used to it. I was a little afraid to go over by myself, but it was fine once I did it a few times.
The journey wasn’t easy, it never is. But it was definitely not impossible. I had the courage to challenge myself at 37. It is only determination and passion. Women should understand that life is not over after marriage and childbirth. If at 40, I am able to do it, then anybody can. As long as you are not running away from your familial responsibilities, everything is fine. You should not forget that you are a mother. Yes, nothing comes at the cost of my kids’ careers. They have welcomed my transformation as much as my husband has. I am fortunate to have a loving family. That made my job easier.
Bodybuilding instilled a lot of confidence in me. Life suddenly looked like an adventure, I wanted to try as many things as I can. Life doesn’t mean that you have to remain in the kitchen till you reach 50 and you gradually pass away after some time. Think of heading towards a separate direction, that’s how you’ll be able to stand out in the crowd. This mindset helped me go ahead with my indomitable urge to want to do something for myself. Look at me today, I am so happy.
I have a music degree, which inspired me to become a professional DJ. I took the passion quite seriously. After having attended a six-month course, I did my first show in Hyderabad. If I look at other career aspects, I have climbed Everest five times. Besides, I am also a photographer interested largely in wildlife photography.
Remember, I have no superpower. I am like any other woman. I still do the dishes at home, take care of the family, and still manage to take out some time for myself. Love yourself first, make fitness your first priority and you will see the wonders.