Deepika Chowdhury’s mornings are as unremarkable as those of any married woman. She wakes up at 5.30 in the morning, and gets down to preparing breakfast for her in-laws and husband Tanujeet, with whom she lives in Pune. She flips eggs, pops the toast and sets the breakfast table. But while the toaster is warming up, she furtively rustles up a parallel breakfast on the sideboard. The omelettes for the rest of the family are stacked up neatly on a plate; for her, four eggs are being hard-boiled.
The rest of the morning goes in packing her husband’s tiffin, haggling with the maid and then surreptitiously packing her own lunch before she heads off for her job as a molecular biologist at the National Institute of Virology in Pune. On her way to work, the 29-year-old polishes off a container of oats and a portion of boiled spinach. At lunch, while most of her colleagues pick at their chapatis and vegetables, Chowdhury tears into a hunk of boiled chicken. During the day, as she compiles reports on changes in strains of measles and Rubella viruses, she runs through another mini meal of cucumbers, paprikas and boiled cabbage.
The mystery of this voracious eater is solved only at six in the evening. At the neighbourhood gym, amid grunting men and chattering women, Chowdhury reveals herself at the free-weight section. Men gasp, and women stare at her perfectly-defined 12-inch biceps. Her deltoid caps bulge with definition and she loads up a bar with a cool 150 kg and proceeds to fire out 10 perfect squats. That’s just for warm-up.
On March 29, Chowdhury became the first Indian to win an International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness (IFBB) title. She was crowned the champion in the Figure Novice category at the Battle on the Beach, one of America’s premier fitness competition for women held at Daytona Beach, Florida. This was Chowdhury’s first competitive appearance, and she was pitted against 15 professional fitness athletes from the US and Puerto Rico. Back from that win, she says she still cannot believe how fast her life has changed, considering she went to the gym only to let her frustration out.
Chowdhury, a Maharashtrian, married Tanujeet, a Bengali, five years ago. Her husband’s family were not pleased with their son’s choice of bride and they made their displeasure evident to their daughter-in-law. “My in-laws were not very happy with me. There was a lot of tension at home,” she says. As temperatures rose, Chowdhury started withdrawing into a shell. That’s when her husband, Tanujeet, whom she knows for more than 15 years now, came to her aid. “I suggested that she should come to the gym with me. It would take her mind off things,” he says.
Chowdhury, thought, got bored soon. It was not until she enrolled for a continued…