By Binoy Thomas
Toronto: Varinder Singh Ghuman, world-class professional body-builder, was sitting along with six other men at his in-law’s house in Mississauga when I met this vegan phenomenon. On the table was a number of wholesome typical Punjabi dishes, all vegetarian, along with fruits and juices, and this giant of a man was toying with a tiny piece of watermelon as I started posing my questions. Varinder, 28, married with two children, is in town to participate in the ProSuper show being organized at the Metro Convention Centre over this weekend(www.torontoprosupershow.com) . He is the captain of the Indian bodybuilding team, and will be competing in the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness) Bodybuilding competition against many other world-class athletes from different countries.
“In the whole world among all the athletes associated with this kind of sport, I am the only vegetarian,” Varinder says proudly.
Have a good look at his photo, and tell me, honestly, would you have believed it! After all, we have been told or rather had it dinned into our heads that the guys and gals who ate meat vaulted over your average vegetarian should easily. And yet, we have here a bhim-like figure from Punjab, who says, he has never touched an egg, let alone, meat, in his entire young life. The vegetarianism comes out of his family’s religious beliefs, but has continued through his adult life.
Varinder is realistic too. A body like his, in some ways, is the work of gods, a gift from your ancestors, as he puts in modern lingo, “Genetics plays a very important role in the development of your body.”
He was fortunate that he carried that unique set of genes, but a gift of nature alone will not have pushed him into the world stage.
As he came into his teenage years, he started to build an ambition to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Mr. Universe turned Hollywood superstar, who currently is under a cloud, but is still an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of body-builders around the world. Varinder says, “He was my hero, not just me, everybody in bodybuilding anywhere in the world, admires him.” Varinder’s full-body, each of the 456 muscles bulging (I am taking a potshot here, I don’t know how many muscles are there in a body) when photographed look very much like Arnie. Only Varinder is better looking than his idol!
Now to answer the question that you have been wanting to ask from the beginning of this story – how did he do it on the aloo bhaji, sarson ka saga and tandoori roti? He reveals, “I get my protein from milk.” Now don’t start pushing milk down your teenager’s throat, all it might do is for him to develop an extreme dislike of the white stuff. Varinder is not talking about just any milk, but a particular kind that, fortunately, he had access to.
It comes from the buffalo. As the buffalo delivers, the milk that the mother produces in the first few days, is full of growth hormones, vitamins, anti-bodies, and most importantly, something called bovine colostrum. It’s popularly known as ‘yellow milk’ or ‘first milk’. “My father is a farmer. We have about 500 to 600 cows and buffaloes and fortunately, we had a steady supply of this milk,” Varinder says.
The people who told him of this wonder food is his coaches in his village. Of course, as he grew into a serious contender for, first national titles (four of them) and then the world titles, he left the buffaloes behind, and started adding commercially available protein supplements to his regular diet. “When you’ve to perform at the international level, these supplements are critical for your success,” Varinder admits.
While his ultimate goal is to win the Mr. Olympia title, he is also making inroads into world of movies. Kabbadi Once Again in Punjabi is due to hit the screens in August. Recently, he signed up with a Bollywood producer to do a Rambo and it’ll be called Fateh. The publicity material leaves nothing to the imagination – here’s Sly Stallone (who is also among Varinder’s idol list) from Talwandi, Punjab. Like his biggest hero, Arnold, he hopes to smoothly transition to the big screen, with a little bit of help from some acting coaches. He knows there is a tradition in Punjabi films, set off by wrestler Dara Singh (though not on his idol list), and that he is ideally suited to fill the muscle gap in Bollywood. He is not as weird as Khali (imagine the Great Khali in a romantic scene) or as short as Salman Khan. At 6’2″ he could become a genuine Action Hero for the Indian audiences. For the moment though, JP Dutta, Ramgopal Verma, Anees Bamzee or whoever, will have to wait till he wins Mr. Olympia.