RAJIV THAPA: CATHARSIS IN BODYBUILDING
“My journey started from frustration.” Rajiv Thapa, 1st Upatyakashree Bodybuilding Competition (in 60 kg category) Gold medalist, hesitated for a moment as he self-debated on whether or not he should open up about this part of his drive into fitness. He had just competed in 4th Mr. Kathmandu Bodybuilding Competition the day before where he took the bronze home for Men’s Sports Physique. Worn out from the competitive high as well as previous photoshoot and work out, Rajiv took his breathe and carried on. “I am not a medical student, neither do I have a medical background but I do believe that frustration and depression, each are a stage of human mental health. And truthfully, I was down to the worse. I had been into frustration for years and years and had been into depression for five to six years then.”
Right at that moment, this interview took a turn of classic I-overcame-my-frustration-inspirational story. “I was filled with too much of negativity. I was too much into alcohol use, substance use and suicidal thoughts.” Rajiv recollects that time in his mind and says he didn’t even have a healthy physique.
“I was exuding a lot of negative energy with my unenthusiastic take on life. Even my body was getting pessimistic day by day. And then once I was hanging out with a friend of mine –late at night, drinking and chatting away the time and that’s when things got categorically serious.”
It must have been the alcohol speaking or the deadly combination of pent up emotions, late-night, loss of inhibitions due to intoxication and a very warm company, Rajiv spoke words that shocked his friend completely.
“My life was going in a certain direction although all in recollection what I gather is that I was not only frustrated but extremely depressed. I had no peace of mind. I had no sleep during night. I was a mess; an utter mess.”
Of course, the next morning when the previous night wore off on him, it hit Rajiv on what happened. Naturally, his friend got alarmed with this state of mental being and therefore suggested him on helping himself with it.
“That was precisely when I decided things were getting out of hand and that I did need serious help. Also, I realized that that there are people who truly cared about me. Then, I did the only thing pertinent to the situation –I created a close friends’ group on Viber and texted that I was ready to get help.” This is seemingly a small step except for someone who is worsening by each passing day; Rajiv’s this small move was a herald of the bigger events to unfold.
Rajiv’s friends poured in with advice, some said to do yoga, some said to seek medical help.
“I could have gone for yoga however as a person battling insomnia, I didn’t see this as a possibility. Soon, a good friend of mine helped me get an appointment for medical help. But I changed my mind about it as well. To say I had let down my friend by not showing up at the doctor’s is an understatement –I had clearly enraged her. I had to convince her that I needed help then again wasn’t ready for this kind of medical help. I was sure enough that I didn’t want chemicals working in my body.”
Rajiv had a veiled lifestyle –he was living his life but wasn’t enjoying it. He was out partying all day, trying out things a normal fun and lively person would but was also battling with lack of confidence.
“I was into sports from a young age. I figured out that playing sports would tire me out and hence I could get some sleep. And if I get some sleep, then perhaps I could function better. For this, I played futsal with my friends but would often miss it due to other commitments. And around this time I joined the gym.”
But like other aspects of his life, this too wasn’t very consistent for Rajiv. He would get a year’s membership or half a year’s membership, leave new gym shoes there, show up for a few days and disappear –all of this in different gyms because he hardly went to the same gym twice. And then he got himself registered in Shapes2 Fitness Gym at Dhalku and started training under Raju Bhujel for first few months.
“Initially, even after a month I didn’t see any difference in me. But this time I was convinced that I had to do this. I had to tire myself and get that sleep or get into medicines or yoga or approach a different path which I wasn’t ready to.”
So after almost two and a half months, he began noticing changes in himself. He could feel his body changing as well as his lifestyle changing. Along with this, he also started feeling good about himself. His confidence was just budding back.
“That is about the time when I noticed Bijay Bajracharya ji at the gym. I did a cursory analysis and decided that if there was anyone who could help me get the maximum results, it was him. So I spoke to him, asking him to train me. I still clearly remember his words back then –he made no nonsense proposition to me and asked me to be either serious about what I’m doing or not to waste both of our time. Some strong words in the first meeting but I knew it was worth the shot.”
Rajiv knew what he was getting into. He rigorously trained and fought with himself. We all are humans and temptations lay in every move we make. Rajiv surmounted all of this and went for what he wanted and needed. Whether it rained or snowed there was no stopping to Rajiv, especially when he was already on his way to enjoy the fruits of his hard work. Months in, he saw distinct changes in himself, his body looked good, his lifestyle changed but most importantly he got what he needed –inner peace.
That’s when his trainer, Bijay recommended Rajiv to compete in a bodybuilding competition. It was the year 2018 –the previous year than this.
“I knew my body looked better than it did before but I wasn’t confident enough to take part in competitions. So I would only attend such competitions as audience to watch and learn. I knew nothing about the rules, my trainer explained all of them to me. I watched the shows during 2018, internalized what I was getting into, and mentally prepared myself for it.”
Rajiv’s story, as I mentioned earlier has this typical inspirational story starter pack –overcoming one’s frustration but what makes his story worth a read is his quick paced victory.
Rajiv got into the scene of bodybuilding competitions only a year ago, formally participated in one of those in May 2019 in 7th Mr. Himalayan under Men’s Athletics and Physic and won fourth position, which for a novice is quite an accomplishment.
“I started taking part in bodybuilding competitions and two major realizations dawned on me -one that bodybuilding is not just sport but an extreme sport. The other that anything is possible if you are focused on it, nothing at all is unmanageable.”
“INITIALLY, EVEN AFTER A MONTH I DIDN’T SEE ANY DIFFERENCE IN ME. BUT THIS TIME I WAS CONVINCED THAT I HAD TO DO THIS.”
Bodybuilding is no joke; one works like a Trojan and the hardest part is, it is all self disciplinary. Temptation and comfort are two things a bodybuilder has to fight through his/her journey. Many people are known to give up before they even see any solid results because the hardship is just too much. It wasn’t easy for Rajiv either. He would have given up if it hadn’t been his trainers.
“I was in almost all the sports teams in my school days and college says. But when I participated in games during those days, I’d do for fun, to get away from studies. When my trainer here at the gym encouraged me to participate in bodybuilding competition, I had an epiphany. My trainer saw the same thing in me that my coaches saw when I was a kid. They noted the same capability in me that my sports instructors saw back then, the chance that I squandered away. I understood that this is my calling. This exact thing kept me motivated.”
The beginning of this chapter was not that easy for him. Now he was no longer looking for inner peace, Rajiv’s goal was to enter that ruthless game of bodybuilding and peak at it. He had that positivity coursing in his life at this point. He was no longer dark and unresponsive. But having said that he wasn’t far from challenges.
“Diet was the main test of me. I had to curb that itch to eat what I like.” As if on cue, his plate of momo was delivered to the table. He allowed himself to have this after a day of competition. “We rarely eat anything especially during the cutting. Supplements are allowed but food is just a no-no.
The other challenge is not being counted as legitimate income generator. Because money isn’t prominent, bodybuilding is not much given importance as a career But the community we are, is enough by itself. The Kathmandu Bodybuilding, Bhaktapur Bodybuilding, Nepal Bodybuilding -all these communities are passionate about what they do, what we do.
To be honest, all of these does not count as challenge. Escaping the trap of temptation is the crucial point. A bodybuilder who hears the siren song of good food and laziness definitely strays away from his goal. I’ll tell you where it’s the hardest, you have not had proper food in months, and your friends are posting delicacies on Instagram. During the days of preparation, one has to even ditch drinking water. And because of that, we get cramps even during the game itself. We’d be howling in pain idisciplinenternally but on the outside, we have to keep up that smile on stage. It is tough, really really tough and self discipline is all we should have to push our body to the extreme level.”
While we were on it, we chatted about the acceptance of sports as an established career in Nepalese context. The topic of bodybuilding did not go untouched. According to most people here, fitness and being in shape is more about hobbies and less about monetary gain. Nonetheless the popularity is rising.
“In the recent game we had Mr. Kathmandu Bodybuilding Competition, we had around 126 participants which is the most in 20 years. This alone is a proof that people are getting aware and supportive of bodybuilding as a sport. And as for profession, I have met people who are very good that what they are currently doing and have such work ethic and experience that can truly aid in transforming bodies.” he said.
A little into flashback, Rajiv had mentioned he got into bodybuilding a year ago, participated in his first ever competition in May 2019 and since then has been involved in five competitions since then. The second competition he took part was 1st Upatyakashree Bodybuilding Competition, in which he took home the gold for 60 kg category and fourth position for overall, in the month of June. Next was 12 South Asian Bodybuilding Championship in which, again, he came fourth which was also in the month of June. Fourth competition that he participated in was the 4th Mr. Kathmandu Bodybuilding Competition in which he got the bronze in the month of September. The fifth and the recent competition was 4th Mr. Bhaktapur Bodybuilding Competition in which again, bronze was his for the category of 65 kgs which took place in september.
My point here being, a novice like Rajiv who initially took up fitness as a release of frustration, got into the race and within a year has so much under his belt. It is truly impressive.
“It feels good when i see myself fit and active. I went from a dissuaded person to an energetic being. There was a time when I refused to look at my own pictures while at the gym and now after rigorous training for 3 to 6 hours a day, here I am, getting up on that stage, showing the world what I have worked hard on.”
What about the future, we asked and his reply was to keeping up with the current lifestyle.
“I would never let go of this pattern that I have for myself. I have a lot of positivity in me, im no longer the person I used to be and this version of myself is better than ever. I may take a break since festivals are approaching and winter is coming too. It is best that I don’t really overdo this. But in the long run this is what I will be doing. I may even go for the internationals -who knows, all I need is support from my community so that I can give it back!
Rajiv Thapa is the man with a story that precisely defines “nothing is impossible” with a motto to go by -We fall, we break, we fail but then we rise, we heal, we overcome.
“BODYBUILDING IS NO JOKE; ONE WORKS LIKE A TROJAN AND THE HARDEST PART IS, IT IS ALL SELF DISCIPLINARY. TEMPTATION AND COMFORT ARE TWO THINGS A BODYBUILDER HAS TO FIGHT THROUGH HIS OR HER JOURNEY.”
INTERVIEWD BY PRASHANT MANANDHAR
WORDS BY ABHIGYA SUBEDI
PHOTOS BY GAURAV XHOMPATE SUNUWAR
LOCATION: FITNESS GARAGE, PEOPLE’S PLAZA, NEW ROAD, KATHMANDU, NEPAL.