(Rajani Shrestha started her journey in the field of body building at the age of 32 and she never looked back over the past one decade. She is bold with muscles like men but is very polite and soft-spoken. She got married in an early age of 16. After some time, she had developed knots at different places of her body. She visited a number of physicians for treatment, but without bearing any result. Then she joined gym, 16 years after her marriage to do experiment with her ailing body. At that time her son was already 16 year old and joined college. Her experiment brought tangible result, the knots she had at different parts of the body disappeared after few months of practicing physical fitness exercises. Rajai became Asian champion as she won gold medal for Nepal in the 55th Asian body building and Physique Sports Championship held in Kathmandu on September 5, 2023. She won the women’s body building in 55 kg category beating India’s Sabita Banja in the game. Here are excerpts from an encounter with Asian women’s body building champion Rajani.)
The Nepal Weekly: What inspired you to enter the world of body building?
Rajani: I happened to join the field of body building due to my illness. After I developed knots in several parts of my body, I went to many doctors both in Nepal and in India, but no one could diagnose it properly. Some doctors even told me that I had cancer. Then my husband advised me to join gym and I practiced body building, which cured the disease within six months.
TNW: When did you start doing body building exercises?
Rajani: At that time I had already reached the age of 32. My eldest son was studying at 10 plus 2 at that time. I got married at an early age of 16.
TNW: Didn’t you feel any difficulty by joining gym at such a late age?
Rajani: No, I didn’t feel any problem to start body building exercises. People mostly think that it was not possible to start doing gym after you became matured. It is even more difficult for women to start doing physical exercises at such age. By I had contradicted the belief. If you try hard nothing is impossible.
TNW: When did you think about participating in body building competition?
Rajani: After joining gym and practicing body building, my ailment was cured. As I continued practicing body building my body took different shape. It looked more beautiful than earlier. For the first time in 2017 I took part in the second series of Mr. Kathmandu body building championship (women’s physique category). I won gold medal in women’s physique category as I took part in the nationwide competition for the first time in my life.
TNW: When did you participate in the international body building competition?
Rajani: I took part in Mr. Himalaya body building championship held in Kathmandu in 2019 in which I won a gold medal. After winning the game door was opened for me to participate in international body building championship. In the same year I took part in South Asian body building championship and bagged a silver medal.
I won silver medal in the women’s 55kg weight category and bagged bronze medal in the above-30yrs age category in the Asian body building championship held in Indonesia in 2019 itself. I was the first woman to take part in the Asian body building championship from Nepal. Finally, I won gold medal for Nepal in the 55th Asian Bodybuilding tournament held in Kathmandu in September this year.
TNW: What changes did you notice in yourself after entering the field of body building?
Rajani: I went through tremendous changes in these days as I entered the field of body building. Not only my body structure changed after that, I experienced several other changes in the course of time. People started paying respect to me. The way they treat me became different. I felt very proud to carry the flag of my country in international tournaments. It was a moment of great pride for me to win the medals for the country. People gave me lots of love and respect.
TNW: How much family support did you receive as you joined this field?
Rajani: My family members fully extended support to me in my journey towards body building. Especially, my husband was very much supportive for me. I got inspiration from him to join this field. I could not succeed in this field without my husband’s support.
TNW: Besides body building what other hobbies or interests do you have ?
Rajani: I love to dance, sing songs and travel different parts of the country. I am especially interesting to travel to the remote areas of the country. I love to go up the hills and mountains of my country.
TNW: Have you also gone for trekking ?
Rajani: Of course. I along with my husband and son, have traveled lots of places. We have trekked in different hill stations and tourist destinations in the country. Going for trekking we three are sufficient. We visited Muktinath, Annapurna Base Camp and many other places.
TNW: WOuld you shed light on your diet plan?
I take lots of nutritious food and mostly I consume foods that are rich in protein but avoid fat and carbohydrate as much as possible. I prefer boiled vegetables rather than oily food. As a body builder I need lots of protein. I take five meals per day. I start my day by taking some oats along with some dry fruits for protein in the morning. After that I go to gym and after returning home I eat 5-6 eggs. During normal time I take 500 gram of meat. But if I have to prepare for competition than I eat around 1 kg of meat daily.
TNW: Daily how much exercise is needed to maintain your body?
At regular time, I do exercises for 1 to one and a half hour to maintain body. However, during the tournament period, I spend at least 6 hours a day.
TNW: What challenges have you faced as a woman body builder?
Rajani: The main challenge we are facing now is related to financial matters. We don’t get any support from anybody. I have to manage all the expenses on my own. The award money allocated for women players is very negligible as compared to male players. Suppose, a male player gets Rs. 5 lakh award money, then a woman player gets not even Rs. 25,000. I feel very sad for the discrimination. We have to spend money in make-up, dresses, costly shoes etc. for the competition.
TNW: Can a female body builder support her life in Nepal only by playing games?
Rajani: That’s not possible at least in Nepal. We don’t get any financial support neither from the government nor from any other organization. We have to depend on side works for our living.
TNW: How much would you spend for preparation during the time of competition?
Rajani: It costs around Rs. 4 to 5 lakh to prepare for competition. But we have to manage the money on our own.
TNW: What is your immediate plan?
Rajani: I have played national games, South Asian and Asian games. Now my ambition is to compete in world championship in body building. I want to win a medal for my country in the world body building championship. In the coming November world body building championship is being held in South Korea and my aim is to participate in that competition. If selected I will give my complete attention for the preparation so that I can enhance the prestige of my country. Nepal BOdy Building Association will select the player from Nepal to take part in the championship.
TNW: What is your future plan?
Rajani: I will spend rest of my time looking after my supplement store where sports goods area available. I want to open a separate gym house especially for women and to train women body builders in the near future.
TNW: How are you celebrating Vijaya Dashami?
Rajani: I would like to celebrate Dashain in the same way how a normal woman would do. I won’t put on sports wear at that time. I would like to wear sari and cholo. I will also fly kites, go to relatives to have tika and enjoy feast during coming Dashain.