ROURKELA: At 40 kg, an emaciated Santosh Jena returns vacant looks at visitors in the Hi-Tech Medical College and Hospital here.
The 34-year old had bagged three back-to-back Mr Odisha titles with his perfectly sculpted body less than a decade ago. Now he presents a scrawny look, his aspiration for a career in body building cut short by penury and now tuberculosis has dealt a cruel blow.
Body-building and fitness are both passion and art of sorts but many talented and aspiring bodybuilders have been left disillusioned with no resource and very little support from the Government. Santosh had turned to his former mentor and joint secretary of IFBB-affiliated Indian Body-Building & Fitness Federation (IBBFF) Satyabrata Ojha for help and the latter requested president of voluntary outfit ‘Aakhi’ Avinash Shukla who hospitalised the body-builder.
Ojha recalls Santosh winning the Mr Odisha titles from 2010 to 2012 and in 2010, he had grabbed the fifth position in the Mr India contest of IBBFF “We were all certain of him winning the title one day but circumstances forced him into oblivion,” he says.
Santosh worked as a gym instructor for a paltry monthly earning of Rs 5,000-7,000 and tried his hands as a driver briefly before TB gripped him in 2019 and re-lapsed now. His father, a daily wage earner, cannot support him either with his growing age.
Many of Ojha’s contemporaries are now leading anonymous lives with petty jobs, while few others died due to lack of treatment to diseases. He could survive since he is a lawyer but most others suffered for lack of decent education.
For body-builders, there is neither government nor private support in the State which hurts the fraternity. Another promising athlete Ashok Maity (29) had begged the prestigious Elite 3 Pro Card in the World Men’s Physique Diamond Cup in October 2018 and is willing to take up a job in Odisha Police.
Maity hails from a poor family and his earning as a gym instructor is too little to support his family and pursue the sport.
“It is a costly sport and requires Rs 20,000-25,000 for high protein diet and food supplements a month. It hurts to see the plight of Jena and other who take so much of physical training and spend money but end up struggling for survival,” he sighs.