Six times Mr World, three times Mr Asia, 12 times Mr India and champions in innumerable national body building championships – herculean achievements, achievements which are meant for superhumans only, not for mere mortals and still remaining as a non-entity in mainland India. In a fast developing country like India, one of the largest democratic country in the world with “Freedom of Expression” as one of its Fundamental Rights enshrined in its Constitution mushrooming with goliath and renowned media houses, it is a pity as well a big shame for India that Mr Arambam Boby is given no recognition at all. Seems like Mr Arambam Boby was born at the wrong place. If he hailed from a part of mainland India or more particularly from a metro city, his name would be at the tip of the tongue of the nation’s citizenry. As of now Smt Om Santi Sharma, a woman hailing from Rajasthan who is on a dharna at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi demanding for marriage with our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is in the limelight and gets more media coverage than the inspirational figure Mr Boby who has brought pride and laurels of India umpteen times.
Nowadays, due to advancement in information technology, the world has shrunk virtually and the gateway to information has widened to such an extent that information of any kind and hue throughout the world can be accessed instantly with our fingertips through various electronic gadgets and gizmos. When we were kids, during high school days, when Internet was unheard of, when information were rare and hard to access, when electronic mass media was at its Jurassic age, when Mark Zuckerberg was in diapers, we stumbled across information on the Austrian born Arnold Schwarzenegger also known as “the Austrian Oak” now residing in the United States, Hollywood’s action superstar sensation nicknamed “Arnie” by his fans and an ex-Governor of California about his achievements of being a three times Mr Universe and seven times Mr Olympia. It comes as a shocker to the North Easterners and people of Manipur in particular when the giant national media houses of India don’t bother to give media coverage to its very citizen in the flesh and blood of Mr Arambam Boby and even if coverage was given, it would be given in the typical way meant for North Easterners – a one-liner just for name sake occupying the barest minimum of newspaper space with a stamp size photograph. In fact, he has been given no recognition at all by any private as well as government entities in mainland India except constant encouragement by Indian Railways. As a result, he is hardly known as an international figure by the people of India just beyond the proverbial “chicken neck” connecting North East with the rest of mainland India. Here again, questions arise whether the step-motherly attitude of mainland Indians towards North East denizens of India still prevails.
Arambam Body was born on February 1, 1975 at Lilong Chajing Mairenkhong Leikai, Imphal West District, Manipur. He is the 5th of the six siblings of Late Arambam Ibomcha and Arambam ongbi Dashumati Devi. Mr. Boby was brought up from a humble back ground. Losing his father at a young age of two, his mother, the sole bread earner of the family brought him up along with his siblings by working in paddy fields and doing other manual works. Since a tender age, the love for sports ran in Boby’s veins. He pursued gymnastics and other games such as football, taekwondo and athlete. To keep the kitchen fire burning, he helped his mother by working in brick fields and carried out other manual works, still managing to keep his sporting dream alive. During his seminal phase he had to endure many hardships due to monetary constraints and supporting the family in their daily struggle for existence thereby pursuing his education upto matriculation only. Life was really harsh and cruel to him. Against all odds, he managed to become a sprinter in 100 & 200 m category under Sports Authority of India. When it comes to sports, he’s a multi-talented person, a one in a million. With struggle for survival getting harder, he joined Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) as a constable which hampered him with his zeal and enthusiasm for sports. Having a good body build and nice posture, his friends and relatives encouraged him to take up body building. Within two months of joining the gym under his first coach Mr Khoirom Yaiskul Singh, he won the Junior. Mr. Manipur (Overall Title) in 1995 and Senior Mr. Manipur (Overall Title) in 1996. In between, he participated in North-East Bodybuilding Championship at Jorhat, Assam in 1995 and emerged as champion in his category. Since then there was no looking back for him. He then became the Junior National Champion in 1996. In November of 1997, he joined Indian Railways as a Clerk in sports quota. There he was trained under Mr Shambu Chatterjee who motivated and inspired him. After accruing over 20 titles in Nationals and Inter-Railways Championships, he took part in the First Senior Nationals (70 kg) from Indian Railways in 1998 and became the champion and then began to participate in Asian and World Championships.
He won the title of Mr. World in the year 2010 in the 75 kg category for Body Building Championship held in Varanasi, India. By 2016, Boby has already won 3 Mr Asia titles, 5 Mr World titles and 12 Mr India titles. One needs superhuman effort to achieve what he has achieved. But the indifferent attitude towards him by the Indian government and mainstream media really pains us. Even though he has brought pride and glory in front of the whole world for India, he is still treated as a non-entity by the Indian government and related sports authorities. In our nation whose populace eat, drink and sleep cricket, the mindset of the people of mainstream India is limited to the game of cricket only. Other sports seem non-existent to them. The sorry figure of sports in India is that 90 per cent of Indians are cricketheads. That’s why India scores abysmally low in many facets of sports in various world championships and loses its dignity in every Olympics even though it is the second most populous country in the world. Had Bobby been a cricketer, even a half successful one, everybody in India would have known him. Luckily, India, for the first time in its history is able to bring out talented football players to the international arena to foray in the ingoing U-17 FIFA World Cup. That also, majority of the players are from North East with Manipur in particular producing eight players. Manipur, no doubt, is known as the Sports Hub of India. As per demographic ratio, our state of Manipur has fewer population compared to a big district of Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, so the number of players in many fields of sports contributed by the small and remote state Manipur may be taken as very high.
No other Indian has achieved feats like Mr Boby in bodybuilding. Beginning from 2010, Arambam Boby Singh emerged as winner of Mr. World title in the 2nd World Body Building and Physique Sports Federation (WBPF) in Men’s World Body Building Championship held in Varanasi in 2010. He retained the same title in the 3rd WBPF World Body Building Championship held in the city of Malacca, Malaysia in 2011 and again in 2012 at Bangkok, Thailand. He is the only Indian to clinch World Bodybuilding Championship as Mr World three times in a row i.e. 2010, 2011 & 2012 and again emerged as Mr World in 2015 and 2016. As defending five times world champion, Arambam Boby of India once again proved his mettle by winning Mr. Asia title at the 51st Asian Body Building & Physique Sports Championship 2017 in South Korea accruing the third title of Mr Asia. He pursued for Arjuna Award from Indian government, but in vain for his request felt into deaf ears. Despite pathetic support from the Indian government, his “never say no” attitude kept him climbing higher and higher in the world arena of body building. Again, with his unbending will, sheer hard work, and passion for body building, he emerged as champion in the recently held 9th WBPF World Bodybuilding & Physique Sports Championships in Mongolia thereby getting the title of Mr World three consecutive years in a row again i.e. 2015, 2016 and now 2017 with a tally of six Mr World titles. Ironically, he is still hardly recognised in India. It’s really a shame that body building is not taken at par as sports in India. It is only the denizens of North Eastern part of India that possesses the liking for various other kinds of sports.
“Unstoppable” is the word to describe Arambam Boby despite all odds. With meager or no monetary assistance from the Indian government, he rampaged foreign countries to emerge as world champion in succession for umpteen times with money from his own pocket. He has created history in Indian body building. He is a real life hero, an icon in the world of body building. He is a source of inspiration to many who loves body building. In fact, he is a gem of Manipur. Many youngblood Manipuris are already following the footsteps he treaded. My heartfelt appreciation goes to Mr Bobby for his superhuman achievements by bringing pride and glory for India and making us proud to be a Manipuri. Wishing Mr Arambam Boby all the best in his future endeavours.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)