India's Mr Bodybuilding struggling to keep in shape
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For years he was India’s Mr Bodybuilding. Despite the fact that Premchand Degra’s days of flexing his muscles infront of judges have been over more than a decade ago he still retains the same status.
But sadly the honorofics like World Champion, Mr Asia, Padamshree, Arjuna Awardee and his face on the polypack on a popular diet-supplement for bodybuilders are the only solace for the man who is struggling to live away from the spotlight.
This champion bodybuilder today is battling adversities to make his family of four survive. After his long-standing employer JCT gave him the pink slip, Degra today makes his living by training some fitness freaks at his personal gymnasium. Apart from that the Hercules Healthcare Products Pvt Ltd uses his picture “of prime” to sell their products for which he gets “a meagre sum”.
Vice-chairman and managing director of JCT Samir Thapar has objection to the world ‘thrown out’ but is candid to say that since ‘‘Premchand is no longer competing in any professional events there was not much for him to do in the company as he was not qualified otherwise for any other official works.’’
The government too have closed it’s doors on Premchand as bodybuilding falls among the non-priority disciplines. Premchand however is eligible to that Rs 1000 which is provided by the Punjab Government under the veteran sportsman welfare scheme to the athletes of the state. “That too we haven’t seen for the last two years,” he quipped with a smile.
On his plight the strongman of yesteryears says in the weak voice, “I am just about managing somehow.” After a pause he speaks again, but this time with a sense of anger and regret.
‘‘All these years I thought about nothing else but my country’s pride. I felt proud to represent the country and it was further enhanced when I won medals because my country’s name was associated with it. But looking back, I feel sad that all my hardwork and dedication have eventually come to a nought,” he said.
So what is his message to all those budding Indian musclemen who dream of emulating his feats while taking their daily dose of Hercules supplement? Degra, who plans to send his young son with dreams of becoming a professional bodybuilder abroad, has nothing remotely inspiring about the message.
‘‘The way I was sacked from my job at JCT and the current state that I am in have promoted my wards to say ‘Sir they didn’t treat you well who will care for us,’’ he says.