Nishriin Parikh is a 55-year-old fitness model, Karate Blackbelt, certified yoga and pilates instructor who has represented India at various bodybuilding championships.
To see a 55-year-old woman walking the ramp in a bikini with several tattoos on her body might not be a usual sight, but when Nishriin Parikh does it, she does it with grace, giving tough competition to the young competitors in their early twenties. Not surprisingly, the “walk” welcomes the applause – never seen before.
In our country, where even the major film industries deprive female actors of lead roles after a certain age and marital status, coming across a fitness model and bodybuilder like Parikh is no less than a miraculous encounter. Nevertheless, this mom of two is determined to set an example for the younger generation to opt for a “healthy and disciplined lifestyle”.
As Nishriin Parikh talks about her childhood days, she does not forget to mention how she was always interested in sports. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Parikh had started learning Karate in 1982, at the age of fifteen. Her fondness for riding bikes also developed at this tender age, and as she urged to have a two-wheeler, the next she knew was her father gifting her a bike.
Once, during her teenage years, she was walking down the Azad Maidan in South Bombay, now a popular place for protests – when she had a quarrel with a few boys, which turned into a physical fight. The girl proved to be heavy on boys but on her leaving the spot, she saw a boy coming behind her who said, “Don’t fight with me, I have come to hand over the earrings of yours that fell on the ground.”
Parikh’s hard work got her a medal in the All India Karate Federation, National Karate Championship in 1989. Soon, after a year, she got married after a long courtship with who she had met during her Karate classes. The couple got blessed with a boy in 1991 and a girl in 1993. Though after which, Parikh’s life changed a bit, but what did not change was her daily routine, where she included regular workouts.
Parikh studied Psychology at Mumbai University and pursued Masters in Diet and Nutrition from Sophia College. Later, she won the ‘Best Personal Trainer of the Year’ ATP award for excellence, 2015, and the origin of her passion can be traced back to 1988-1989. She would travel from Flora Fountain to the office of Air India at Nariman Point on her bike to teach self-defense, which was mandatory back then for the employees.
Now, a certified fitness trainer, she has also taught Aerobics to the students at her children’s schools. “Both my kids were in different schools. As a mother, I wanted to spend time with both of them while also making sure that they were growing up in a healthy environment. Hence, I approached the schools to teach Aerobics,” says Parikh, who was a visiting faculty at both the schools.
With time, Parikh’s children grew up and were sent to boarding schools, and she was left with plenty of time in hand. As an avid reader, Parikh would read every day, but this was not satisfactory for her. During this time, Parikh happened to come in touch with an old acquaintance, in the company of whom, she developed an interest in yoga.
Without wasting much time, Parikh enrolled herself for a Post Graduate Diploma from an Institute called KaivalyaDhama in Mumbai. The one-year course had classes from Monday to Saturday between 6 to 8 in the morning for practical sessions and at the same time in the evening for theoretical frameworks. Gradually, Parikh was engrossed in Yoga so much that she shifted to a bigger home with a terrace, and she decided to use the space to teach “strength training” to students.
It has been 18 years since has been running ‘Yoga Strength’ – a multidisciplinary fitness programme from her experience in yoga, martial arts, weight lifting, and pilates. In her words, “Only a good student can be a good teacher and I qualify this criterion.” Parikh is a strict teacher and is often heard saying that discipline is a must for a healthy life. “I come across people who tell me that they have diseases like Diabetes but they forget to monitor their diet. Unhealthy food has better alternatives. Who is stopping you from eating a banana instead of a Vada Pav?” asks Parikh.
‘Doors are open, walk through them’
The major turning point came in her life at the age of 48 when her uterus had to be removed after she developed Fobroids – the non-cancerous growth of the uterus that usually appears during the childbearing years. Parikh, however, decided to work harder to overcome the bad time by taking seven classes in a day. She focused on remaining fit and as she touched 50 in 2016, her children motivated her to participate in ‘Mumbai Shree’, a bodybuilding competition.
Parikh recounts, “I had visited with my daughter, and everyone thought that she was the participant. They were surprised when I put on the costumes but had ‘wow’ as the only reaction.” There was no stopping for her as she later went ahead and participated in Maharashtra Shree and many national competitions in the ‘open age category. “I had the body, I just needed the guts,” she adds.
From ‘Gladrags Mrs. India’ to other Asain championships, Parikh kept winning the hearts of the audience and the judges with her sheer determination and became a known face as a “Model Physique Athlete”. In 2018, Parikh got international recognition when she stood 4th in World Bodybuilding and Physique Federation championship in Thailand.
Parikh’s family remained the pillar of strength throughout her journey and would accompany her to various national and international championships in other countries like South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand. Remembering the days in South Korea, she says, “My family would bring food for me during the championship and I could not be happier.” Parikh’s son, who is now an Engineer, and daughter, who is a clinical psychologist and DJ, also make sure to promote her mother on their social media platforms regularly.
Has Nishriin Parikh faced any challenges all this while? “I have believed that the doors to our dreams are always open, despite challenges, and we just need to walk through them,” she says.
Parikh starts a day with her protein shake that is followed by workouts. Her daily schedule also includes shooting for advertisements, sometimes with B’Town celebrities too. It could be because of her habit of conducting physical classes for nearly two decades that she could not turn to the virtual model of teaching during the nationwide lockdown. She simply says, “It is not for me.” Thanks to the ease in COVID-19 restrictions, students are back in class.
Being the face of the Indian Body Builders Federation (IBBF) and the brand ambassador of a fitness and wellbeing supplements brand, Nishriin Parikh does not hesitate to flaunt her body that highlights the marks on her stomach that she got during her uterus removal surgery. “I believe to present the body to the world in its natural form, ” she says adding that she does not take any “growth supplements”.
While it’s no less than a wonder how Nishriin Parikh has been giving a tough competition to her younger counterparts, it amazes us more when she says, “I still have a lot to do.”
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