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Will of Iron and Muscles to Match

Times of India
12 April 2010
By Marcus Mergulhao
Margao, India

HIV +ve Manipuri Wins Silver At National Bodybuilding
Pradipkumar Singh
The indomitable human spirit never ceases to surprise. When Pradipkumar Singh stepped forward to receive his silver medal at the 50th Senior National Bodybuilding Championship in Margao on Sunday it was one such moment. What set this 39-year-old from insurgency-ravaged Manipur apart was his HIV positive status. And, of course, his sheer grit and determination.

The story begins in 1984, when as a teenager Pradipkumar had his first brush with heroin. “I started doing drugs just for fun. I was probably 14 when I tried heroin for the first time and then marijuana,” he says.

But the narcotic high doesn’t always last for ever. By the time he decided enough was enough–that was in 1992–what then looked like a promising career in wrestling and powerlifting was already in tatters.

But the worst was yet to come. The syringes had taken their toll. In 2000, he was diagnosed with HIV. “I thought my end was near. I kept telling myself: ‘I will die today, tomorrow or, probably, the day after’. It frustrated me no end and I was dying a slow death,” he told TOI.

After staying indoors for two years, Pradipkumar finally decided to battle the dreaded disease. He joined a gymnasium, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Several doctors warned me against heavy exercises, but I knew what I was doing. Look at me now, I can do everything that a normal person can. I can compete against the best in the country and, given a chance, I can win honours even at the international level,” he told TOI after the awards ceremony. The silver medal in the 60kg category was his first at the Nationals but had he not been tied with Goan champion, Rama Bhat, and the judges probably not swayed by local sentiments, the Manipuri would have walked away with the gold medal.

“I was up for the challenge when I made it among the five finalists. I did not sleep the whole night, wondering whether my dreams would come true,” he said.

Pradipkumar’s dream did come true, but only in part. “The silver could have so easily been gold. Somehow, somewhere, something must have gone wrong. I am happy with this silver medal though. This is my happiest day,” said Pradipkumar, who is now hoping to represent India and win honours at the Asian Bodybuilding Championship at Bahrain in August.

From being infected with the killer virus in the summer of 2000 and hiding it from the world till 2007 when he became Mr Manipur to winning a silver medal at the National championships, his is the stuff that we thought only the legendary Magic Johnson was capable of.

“It’s been such a tiring journey,” confessed Pradipkumar, who is now the brand ambassador for Manipur AIDS Control Society.

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