It was a normal and happy life for Monica Gupta, a 38 year old pharmacist and mother of two from Jammu in Northern India. She had a business, a family and was used to getting appreciated for her beauty. One day while working in the kitchen there was an accident that injured her hand. The juicer that she was working on malfunctioned and a blast occurred that severely injured her hand. This resulted in her being confined to her home for a long time and in a month she gained 15 kg extra weight. It also resulted in various other problems like knee pain and joint pain etc. “This gradually eroded my confidence and I was getting a little bit anxious. The appreciation that I was getting from people for my beauty was going away and it disturbed me because I that was important in my otherwise ordinary life.” She says. It was then that her husband Ravi Gupta suggested they go to the gym together. But the was reluctant. “We are from a small town and I was very shy. I flatly said no.” She says. Despite her husband’s insistence she was not interested in going to the gym at all. But finally she gave in and they went to a gym.
“We took one month membership in the gym. The first day I did some cardio and it felt good. I felt a bit confident and we continued. One day my husband suggested that I should do strength. I said I will not do it because it is for boys and I do not want muscles like boys. He said- I have been doing strength for so long and I have not developed muscles in one month so don’t worry.” Monica recalls.
Though she initially refused to do strength training at first, finally she agreed and started doing strength training. But more changes were on the card. “Sometimes after starting strength training my husband suggested changing diet. I had given up non veg food fifteen years back and now he was suggesting that I should start taking non veg diet. I was irritated. He had dragged me to the gym, then he made me do strength training and now he was changing my diet.” Monica was not happy with all the changes that her husband was gradually making in her lifestyle. “I did not like the fact that he was changing everything in my lifestyle. First he took me to the gym, then he got me into strength training and now he was asking me to start taking non-veg diet which I had given up 12 years back. I was not happy. He said he would not insist on anything that I did not want to do. I did not realise at that time that he was motivating me for adopting a better lifestyle.” She says.
Monica’s strength training was going on when one day an interesting incident happened. She was doing strength training with her husband and some guys were giving weird looks. For a small town like Jammu it was an unusual sight for a woman to do strength training. All the girls would do cardio and seeing a lone woman doing strength training was unusual. One of the guys said to her, “Don’t do this or you will start looking like a man.” She replied, “Yu start doing it more and you will start looking like a man too.” The guy was so embarrassed he left and never came back. “The incident gave me a lot of confidence” She joyfully recalls. But this incident also prompted her husband to look out for a gym with better environment. Within six months they joined another gym where all the people were appreciative and the environment was very good.
Monica’s transformation was visible to people in a short period of time. She was developing a good physique and people had started to notice. Even the owner of the gym who was the IBBF president of Jammu noticed her and highly praised her transformation. Some people even suggested her to become a fitness model. “It was next to impossible for me. I was from a family where we were allowed to wear anything but sharing the stage on bikini in a male dominated society for a mother of two at the age of 39 was impossible especially in our small town.” Monica says.
But despite dismissing the suggestion of becoming a fitness model, Monica started thinking about it. “I looked at my life. I was married at the age of 18 and by now I was 39. I was leading a life where a woman is happy being a mother and going to parties and showing off thei dresses, ornaments etc to other women and that was the end of life. Even I was leading that kind of a life. This sudden realisation kept me awake for that night.” She says. She started following fitness models on social media. She told her husband about becoming a fitness model. He did not take it very seriously. But with every passing day her dream became stronger and stronger she kept reiterating her wish to her husband.
One day Monica bought some posters of her favourite fitness models and pasted on her wall. When her husband came home and saw the posters he said, “Just a few days back I spent thousands of bucks to paint the walls. What have you done to them?” She replied, “I have pasted my dreams that are worth millions and I think I should do it.” She recalls with a voice radiating with confidence and self appreciation. Her husband did not reply that evening but next morning he said to her, “Look. It looks very easy but it is not. It requires a lot of discipline. Your entire lifestyle will change. Your parties, your recreations, everything will go away. You will not be able to devote time to your friends and your family. It comes at a cost. You can do it at the cost of the enire family.” She was depressed for a few days and then she said to him, “If I maintain family time, if I prepare my own meals, if I give up my parties and limit my trips to my parent’s home, will you stand by me?” He said, “I will always stand by you but do you have the courage to take this challenge?”
Monica immediately changed her diet and hired a personal trainer. But soon she realised the trainer was not being very useful so she started preparing on her own. After some time she went to the gym again and asked the owner about her progress. He casually said that she can compete in a competition if she prepares for two months. She took it very seriously and started training two times a day. Her husband would also accompany her once. Entire family was following a very strict diet now.
As the competition approached Monica started to get jittery about appearing in shorts and sports bra on stage. When she told her husband he said, “ You have come so far, now if you have to wear it for the competition, I have no problem with it.” But her mother in law was not very happy. She was not ok with the idea. But her husband said, “let’s keep preparing, let’s see what happens later. “
Finally the time came for the competition. It was the first time that females were participating in Jammu & Kashmir. She realised that her rivals were all experienced women. One of them was a very successful fitness athlete from Delhi. She was nervous. Her nervousness transformed into panic when she arrived at the venue of the competition. Seeing all the other contestants and thinking about being on the stage for the first time she panicked. Just when her name was announced she told her husband that she was not doing it. “My husband touched me with two fingers, because I had tan all over my body, and pushed me into the stage.” She says laughing. Once she was on the stage she was initially nervous for some time but then a thought came to her mind that her husband had pushed her to this level all along and now she does not want to let him down. “This thought made me help give my best and people gave me so much support. I got over all the nervousness and a smile came to my face automatically.” In that competition she got the gold medal and became Ms Jammu and Kashmir. It boosted her confidence. She also got the title Champion of Champions.
Monica, her husband and the children did not tell anyone else in the family that she was participating in the competitions. Next morning she was in the newspapers and now her mother-in- law and other family members were very happy and were proud of her. The neighbourhood ladies who had been discouraging her all along were now congratulating her. The people who “Life changed overnight. The Monica that no one knew became very popular. People wanted selfies with me. Some relatives were still not happy about me posing on stage. My husband told them that I was not doing anything wrong or secretive. I was in a sport and he is proud of me. This had given them a very strong message and their mindset changed.”
Gradually Monica started winning other competitions at the national and international level. Some of them are- bronze medal in IBBF Miss India competition in 2020, Gold medal in Miss North India 2017 in Model Physique, fith place in the WBPF Miss World title in Athletic Physique in 2017 etc.
Today, Monica Gupta is an inspiration for a lot of people especially women. She believes that every woman must be fitness conscious. “If a woman is fit the entire family remains fit. Since I follow a strict healthy diet, my family also does it. It has improved their health as well. Every woman should believe in herself and pursue her dream. If you work hard, nothing is impossible and I am a testimony to that” She says in a tone radiating confidence and determination.