The Life of a Disabled Indian Bodybuilder
Apr 18, 2021

Soumen Haldar is a 33 year old disabled bodybuilder from Kolkata, India. He is a source of inspiration for others, as despite his disability, he strives for excellence in his body building. Having bag

What comes to mind when you think of bodybuilding? Chiselled pecs, washboard abs and hours of training, right? Soumen Halder is 33 years old. He is from Kolkata in West Bengal. He has had paralytic polio since he was a child. This left him with no motor function below the waist. He said that he was given expired polio drops during a vaccination. Due to this, there was a risk that Halder would lose all his four limbs. However, he is thankful that he has lost only his legs. India accounted for nearly half of all cases of polio in the world till as recently as 2009. India was also  considered one of the most difficult places in the world to eradicate the highly infectious viral disease. 

When Halder turned 17, a friend called him to a local gym he ran to show him photos of disabled bodybuilders working out. He started working out there, but his friends would ask him to leave the gym because they’d be embarrassed to see him working out next to them. Halder’s mother advised him to carry on regardless of what others thought, so he just switched his training schedule and continued doing what most people around him couldn’t understand. As he trained harder, Halder’s diet became more demanding. He required more protein in his diet, which was too expensive for him to afford. Haldar said that his mother didn’t complain. She started doing odd jobs to afford it. She was the only support he had. However, just months before Halder would win a state championship in 2016, his mother passed away. 

Haldar said that his mother was not around to see him succeed, and that hurts him everyday. He went on to win second place in the Mr India championship by the World Fitness Federation in 2018, and the Asia Pacific Championship in 2019. Halder trains other people in bodybuilding as well. When his first student approached him in 2011, he agreed and charged him a mere 50 rupees. That student won championships across India and Asia and later qualified in the Indian Armed Forces. After him, Haldar was motivated to teach more students. Halder trains his students in traditional gyms called akharas. Over 20 students train with him for hours for almost all days of the week. Haldar says that he tries to support his students in everything they do. There was no one to support him and he knows what that feels like. He says that there’s a lack of support in India when it comes to sports, especially bodybuilding. Everybody seems to respect only cricketers. His ultimate dream is to open his own gym someday.