Flexing her muscles at an admiring crowd, Mamatha Sanathkumar stands on the winner’s stage, trophy in hand. There, from the applauding audience, she sees a 5-year-old running towards the stage, ecstatic after the show. When her mom is crowned the winner, little Purvika has to share the stage with her.
Body-building is largely considered a man’s sport where exposing your body to show the musculature and symmetry is ‘not women’s work’. And even as things are changing, albeit, at a slow pace, the stigma against female bodybuilders is still fresh when it comes to mothers from an orthodox family. But Mamatha is beyond such limitations.
Knowing all too well that most of her relatives will never speak a word to her-a bikini wearing professional body-builder, Mamatha takes the centre stage for her laddu, as she fondly calls her daughter.
“I was not always into bodybuilding or even working out,” the Bengaluru resident shares with The Better India. “In fact, till November 2015, I was overweight. Like anyone else, I loved burgers, pizza, soft drinks and other junk food. Add my post-pregnancy weight to that and I was almost touching 90 kg. But something clicked a winter month, and I started working out. By the following November, I was down to 62 kg and already in love with my workouts.”
A homemaker and a mother to a toddler, Mamatha worked sincerely in the gym and was on her way to becoming a trainer which wasn’t exactly the career path she had chosen for herself. She was all too happy to drop her kid to the nursery and receive her husband after his shift ended. But everything changed at the end of 2017. Her husband lost his job bringing their world crumbling around them.
Sharing how the situation at home changed back then, Mamatha tells us, “After losing his job, he obviously got frustrated. And soon enough, his frustrations were taken out on us. There were quarrels in the house that I didn’t want my daughter to witness.
And just like that, almost impulsively, I decided to become a body-builder. It’s quite rare for a village girl like me to pursue it, but I did it anyway.”
Hailing from the Basavapura village in Karnataka, Mamatha had several challenges lying ahead of her. The toughest of which was the lack of support from her family. “I was told, time and again from my parents and my husband that I must stop displaying my body in shows and on social media. But social media itself helped me turn this criticism into support. I kept getting appreciating comments how supportive my family was which in reality was just the opposite initially. But the more comments my family read, the faster they came to accept me as I am,” the 27-year-old says.
Using her social media influence to help women like her accept themselves, Mamatha shared an inspiring note about stretch marks. Concealed by makeup and hidden from the audience, stretchmarks rarely make it to the media screens, which creates taboos and sows seeds of doubt and insecurity in thousands of women. But not if this body-builder can help it. “The way I see it, we have two options when it comes to our stretch marks. We can let those stretchmarks define us, hold us back from reaching our goals and feeling confident in ourselves. Or, we can remember why they’re there, what we went through to get them and that they are a part if what makes us who we are.
But most importantly, just own those suckers. Be confident in yourself, the journey you’re on and love, own, and embrace every single part of what makes you, you. Even those pesky stretch marks, she shared in one of her posts.
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The way I see it. ⠀ We have two options when it comes to our stretch marks. ⠀ ⠀ We can, ⠀ let those stretch marks define us, hold us back from reaching our goals and feeling confident in ourselves ⠀ ⠀ Or ⠀ ⠀ We can remember why they’re there, what we went through to get them, and that they are a part of what makes us who we are but most importantly, just own those suckers. ⠀ ⠀ Be confident in yourself, the journey you’re on, and LOVE, OWN, and EMBRACE every single part of what makes you, YOU. Even those pesky stretch marks 😘 Post pregnancy 🤰 stretch marks ♥️🙌 Photography @imvjgowda MUA @mua_vidyapatil ⠀ #flexfriday #ifbbpro #flashback #stretchmarks #fitmom #momlife #athlete #ironwomen #sheruclassic #ifbbproleague #bodybuildingmotivation #bestrong #strongwomen #quadsqueen #bosslady #musclemom
“When Its comes to tigerstripe, I never want others to think I’m saying I’m the only one that has them in the fitness industry. Because guess what? reality is, more women than you think have stretch marks. Whether it’s on their tummy, bums, thighs, or breasts. But, my hope is that with me being so open about them, and sharing my experience in the industry having tiger stripes and extra skin, it would help other women know it’s ok to embrace them, love them, share them with pride, and love whatever journey that comes with them,” she adds.
With the newfound support of her family, Mamatha dove into bodybuilding head on. She entered competitions and worked towards becoming better at her profession every day. On the side, she worked as a trainer in a gym to support her family.
Purvika, her daughter was the one pillar of strength throughout her struggles- through the 10-hour shifts, through her unavailability as a mother and through the competitions that she would enter but not win.
“Laddu is my inspiration because I want to become her inspiration someday. I believe myself to be a very loving mother although as a trainer, I am quite strict. In the gym, it’s all about tough love. At home, it is doting over Purvika. She has always admired me and even comes with me to the gym. Gradually, I won over the full support of my family and yet, my daughter is my biggest strength,” Mamatha tells us.
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Through the struggle of finding sponsors, of entering competitions and finally securing the support of her family, Mamatha became a “muscle mom”. Today, she is raising her child by doing a split shift at the gym and pursuing bodybuilding professionally. Her husband too, found a job last year and he’s happy with it. This Mother’s Day, when we are celebrating unique moms with their challenges and their determination to raise their children against all odds, Mamatha’s story emerges as one of the most inspirational.
Feature image courtesy: Mamatha Sanathkumar.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)