MEET – Mr. Asia Suhas Khamkar
It’s not every day you come across a person with the kind of confidence you read about only in biographies. You either see people who are overconfident and arrogant even after the smallest of achievements or people who talk big and never work hard. However, there are indeed some terrific athletes, who speak with unshakeable confidence and work all-out to make their words come true.
I was stunned to realise that Mr. Asia Suhas Khamkar is a man who says with confidence that he would achieve something big and then move mountains to ensure that he was not boasting. My regular interactions with him through emails and telephone were not enough to make me appreciate what kind of a person was my dear friend. And when he spoke to me in person, I was speechless.
Read on to see if you can get the feel of it.
Team Masters: Advance wishes bhai, I ‘m sure you are going to participate in the world amateur championship (Mr. Universe) scheduled for November 2011.
Khamkar: Thanks bhai, I’ll bring home the title and earn a pro card soon.
TM: Wow, I can see you are extremely confident.
K: Of course, yes. I know what I can accomplish. I’ve been waiting for this event. Man, I’m going to show everybody what kind of potential champions like me, Indians, have got. I’ll make my country proud.
TM: We are still in September, but, you seem to have already lost all fat and …pretty ready right away…what do you weigh now?
K: (Showing his etched abs) I’m 84 kg now and will have to enter the 75-kg class.
TM: What??!!!How are you going to come down???? And what have you got to lose from this incredible body man?
K: A little water and a little bit of lean muscle, what else?
TM: But, but…
K: Yeah, yeah, I know sacrificing lean muscle is not good…So I have to be extremely careful. I have done that successfully before and know how to do it again. Nevertheless, it’s going to be very hard on me. But, coming from a background full of struggles, I know I’m strong enough, physically and mentally, to pull it through.
TM: Great to hear that bhai, do tell me about your background.
K: (Eating apples, Khamkar begins recollecting his incredible journey) I am from Kolhapur. I was born on August 9, 1981. My father, Madhukar Khamkar, worked in Shahun Sugar Mill. My elder brother Sunil Khamkar was seven years elder to me. My mother was a housewife. Life was a struggle even when both of us brothers were going to school. I was too good in sports right from the earliest. I used to create a ‘hungama’ during sports day and that entire season at school. I excelled in athletics, long jump, high jump and all kind of sports at school. I have to thank my father and mother for that gene. My father was a wrestler and so were my paternal and maternal grandfathers. I was pretty strong from the beginning. However, when I was in Standard X, I realised that I was looking thin. All the other boys started calling me ‘skinny.’ My brother was training with weights at that time and had a good physique. He eventually won ‘Mr. Kolhapur’ title. I hit the weights inspired by him to build a decent body. But, my body responded better than his. Within months, I started looking much better than some guys who were training for years! I entered a gym contest at that time and placed third. That was it bhai, I knew there is a lot more in store for me in this game and I never stopped after that.
TM: When was this?
K: I don’t remember… not sure…
TM: Who was your guru?
K: I wish I had one. Had that happened, I would have gone some more places ahead by now. I learnt by observing others. Then, I started saving money and buying magazines. All those helped me.
TM: Yeah, please continue, let me not interrupt…
K: No, no, nothing of that sort. I then kept training hard and won a district contest. I finished school and joined B.Com. At that time I won a contest held among all college students, ‘Kolhapur College Shri.’ However, life had started to get tough a little before that. In 2000, my father lost his job as the mill he was working was closed and it was a lot of struggle. We opened a small shop to repair cycle tyre and tube. My brother and I helped our father after school and it went on for some time. After a lot of agony, my father received a compensation of Rs. one lakh. He gave Rs. 30,000 each to my brother and I and told to keep it as savings for our life. My brother bought a taxi and started earning. Eventually, he started a travels business. I, on the other hand, spent all the money on food and supplements and went broke soon. At that time, I was offered a job in a factory and told to join on a particular day. As I had planned to do one final contest before bidding adieu and taking up a job, I asked those people if I could join the day after the show. They agreed and I entered the contest and won. That came as a turning point.
TM: How come?
K: A gentleman by name Vikram Singh Dhadge, who owns a sugar factory in Kolhapur, came to watch the show. He spotted my potential and told me to come and meet him at his office the next day. I once again took permission from the guys who offered me a job and went and met Mr. Ghadge. He heard my story and offered me a job – all I had to do is train hard and represent his business concern and he would offer me a salary of Rs. 2,000 a month. That was god-send for me. I grabbed the offer, pushed myself harder and grew and grew. Sometime later, I felt that I had to come to Mumbai to make it big. In 2001, I arrived here carrying just one bag and all alone. My family was back at my hometown and in tears when I said I wanted to leave. But, I insisted and got what I wanted. However, I had no place to stay. For some days I slept in parks and on platforms. Once again, Mr. Dhadge came to my rescue. He started paying me Rs. 8,000 a month and arranged for my stay at a camp where wrestlers stayed. I had to cook all my meals. I would go to gym in Matunga from Kurla walking, I hope you realise the distance.
TM: Oh, life has not been smooth at all bhai.
K: I just didn’t bother. I pushed harder and eventually entered and won All India University Championship (national-level). In 2003, I won another national-level contest, ‘Shiv Shankar Shri.’ The biggest upset at that show was I beat multi-Mr. India E.G. Byju. Everyone from Mr. India Prasad Kumar to Mohanan was curious to see this young guy who beat a veteran like Byju. That was it. I knew that I could accomplish a lot with more hard work and perseverance.
TM: Amazing bhai. You also won the Federation Cup Mr. India, right.
K: Yeah, it was held in Chhattisgargh. I then got a job in Central Railways as ticket collector. I was given an accommodation in Railway Quarters and I moved in there. I have won Mr. Maharashtra three times, Mr. India five times and Satish Sugars Classic nationals.
TM: I remember seeing you at the 2005 senior Mr. India held at Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai. You placed fifth.
K: (Smiles) Things could have been…you know what…but, fine… I kept improving.
TM: I wasn’t personally very happy with your placing in last year’s world championship either. What’s your take on that?
K: Well…I know it should have been better … a lot of people told me that too. That’s why I’m waiting for this year’s show. I’ll bring home the title and make the world realise Indians’ potential.
TM: Jai ho! I’m thrilled to hear this. Ok, is your family now with you?
K: I got married in 2007 and have a daughter. My wife is a software engineer and a very understanding person. Her support is so vital to me and she never fails me. My parents have recently moved in and are staying with us.
TM: Ok, moving to the lighter side, tell me who is your favourite actor?
K: (Laughs) I don’t watch movies that much…I might have watched one or two films in bits and pieces in two or three years. I watched a movie after my wedding and that was for my wife. I may watch a movie while travelling on a bus. But, that is as long as I stay awake and that’s it.
TM: You look like a film star. Why not try your luck in movies?
K: A lot of people have told me that. But, I have great ambitions in my sport. I am not that much interested in pursuing a career in acting.
TM: I’ve also heard that you are likely to enter politics once retired. That you are close to some leaders fuels speculation. What do you have to say for that?
K: Arrey bhai, I have a lot more, an awesome lot to achieve in my game. It’s going to be a long, long time before I retired. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But, there are several leaders who like me and they are all not from the same political party, trust me. So, you cannot say I belong to one particular party. Nevertheless, I’ll stay involved in bodybuilding even after my retirement and that I know for sure. I’ll be a bodybuilder as long as I ‘m alive.
TM: Ok, what are your other interests, like in other sports?
K: Bodybuilding, bodybuilding and bodybuilding alone man!
TM: Amazing, I’m seeing a great champion speak like me, a crazy guy and enthusiast.
K: Of course bhai, this is my identity. Whatever I am, credit goes to bodybuilding. People respect me for that and love me when I win something for the country. I won’t let them down. I’ll get a pro card, train with the pros and beat many of them. Indians will soon rock the pro shows.
TM: You can do it bhai, good luck. And tell me a little about your training and diet.
K: I train each muscle twice a week. I do cardio while getting closer to the show. The duration and frequency depends on which weight category I have to enter. As regards my diet, I eat 40 egg whites a day, 1,500 gm chicken and 500 gm fish. I also eat unlimited number of fruits, as you could see it right now. For carbs, I eat some chappatis and oats. I use a lot of food supplements.
TM: Your favourite bodybuilder?
K: Who else but Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has achieved so much in so many different fields. His philanthropic activities are mind blowing. Every sportsman should be like him.
TM: Before signing off, what would you like to tell as a message to our readers?
K: I know a lot of people, not just bodybuilders and officials, read your blog. I want such people to appreciate that there are a lot of sportsmen like me who are working relentlessly to win laurels for our country. I want the elite section to realise that apart from mainstream sportspersons, there are players like us who work as hard as mainstream athletes, if not more, and end up killing ourselves expecting no big money. Please see to it that such fighters get enough support, not just financial but also psychological, so that they can train harder and change Indian sports scenario. And bhai, thanks for your wishes. I’ll see you soon as world champion.
Tailpiece: My dear friends, I have been maintaining this blog for a few years now, but never asked my readers to do anything. However, after talking to Suhas, I felt like I should send out a personal message to all those who read this story – there have been a lot of competitors in bodybuilding who have left the sport just because they didn’t have financial support to go abroad and train with expert trainers and pros or train to get a pro card. Please don’t let all that happen to a wonderful athlete like Khamkar and a lot more up and coming champions of our country. This need not necessarily mean you have to shower money on them. If you happen to be in media, write stories about them, make them familiar among corporate houses or sport-lovers, who may be helpful in some way. Give such champions a royal welcome when they arrive in the country after an international event and write stories on their achievements and life.
Every one of us can, in some way, help these champions, who will, in turn, make us feel proud to call ourselves Indians.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar