Interviews

Turning India Pink – In Conversation with Milind Soman

Abraxas Lifestyle recently sat down with supermodel, actor, film producer and fitness promoter Milind Soman to talk about fitness and India’s Biggest Women’s Run – Pinkathon.

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You founded India’s Biggest Women’s Run – Pinkathon. What was the inspiration behind it?

Being a runner, I know the value of regular exercise and a fit lifestyle. It’s not necessary that everybody has to run to be fit, but they have to pick any kind of activity they enjoy and I saw the way that running was gaining popularity across the country. The movement started about 10 years ago, and today pretty much every city has a 10 km run or a half marathon or a full marathon. However I noticed that the participation of women was very low. Even today it’s 8 or 9%. So I was just trying to figure out the reason and on talking to people I was told that women don’t want to run or they’re not interested, or that they’re too busy – they have to be at home, they have to take care of the children, they have to do pooja with their mother-in-law, etc. So then I thought that it can’t really be that because everybody knows at the back of their mind that they must do something to take care of their health. Today, it is necessary. So I said “Okay, let’s create a space that is only for women and see the response”. So we created the first Pinkathon in December 2012. Before the first marathon, everybody was trying to put us down by saying that no one was going to show up. Instead, 2000 women participated which was a good number for a start. We decided that the energy that we felt was really fantastic – 2000 women getting together without any agenda. They’d just come to celebrate and it became a celebration of health.

So we thought of doing it in other cities and seeing the response. Subsequently every city we went to, the number went up. We went to Bengaluru, it was 3500; we went to Delhi and it became 5000. Every place we went to, it just became bigger and bigger. Finally we had 65000 women participating across 8 cities. So that was the kind of response we got and now we have people from other cities calling us asking “Why can’t we have a Pinkathon in our city?” It’s sad that there are no spaces created just for women since women need a little bit more encouragement to come there.

We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not that women don’t run because they don’t want to, but it has more to do with cultural reasons. Especially since we know that in India, a woman won’t go to a place where there are crowds of men and very few women. Even families would not be comfortable.

What about smaller cities?

Now people have started calling us, we created a new event just last year called ’India Going Pink’. Under that, we created a franchise. So when interested people from other cities contact us, we give them the guidelines, the standard operating procedures and tell them how to raise sponsorships and how to get people to participate. We help them out with their presentations and all that and then tell them, “Now you do your own event, we will be there for it”. We did that in Panaji in Goa and then again in Vishakhapatnam and the responses both times were fabulous.

Was the response even better in comparison with the metro cities?

It was very good, but just to keep the costs down we kept a cap of 2000 women only. But if you remember, the first Pinkathon in Mumbai had 2000 women. So in comparison to Mumbai’s first year, we had 1800 women in Vishakhapatnam, which is excellent. In Goa we had about 1500 women who participated in the first edition. So now, we have a lot of enquires from Zilakpur, Raipur, Dagar and places like that.

So this year we might do 4 cities: 8 of Pinkathon and 4 cities via franchises – Panaji, Vishakhapatnam, Nagpur and Raipur.

What is health according to you?

According to me, health is being able to create a positive environment around you because that is the basis of survival.

To create a positive environment, you need to be disease-free in the mind. You must be disease-free in the body and your relationships. So health is not only about your body – it’s about your body, your mind, your emotions, the way you deal with people, situations around you and your positive outlook. It’s about all of that. So when you talk about fitness, you say “How fit are you?” You might be fit to run 10kms, I might be fit to run 5 kms, somebody else might be fit enough to run a 100kms. There is a level of fitness and everybody has their own level. So how we calculate fitness is your ability to create a positive environment. Can you nurture your relationships? Can you look at situations positively? It’s not about lifting weights and running 100km. It’s about creating a positive environment. If you can do that, in your home and at your workplace with yourself accepting and understanding yourself, then you’re fit.

What can you tell us about your fitness regime?

I don’t have a regime. Even with food, the only part of food that I don’t eat is refined white sugar. I don’t eat sugar. I eat sweets made of jaggery, honey or coconut sugar and things like that, but not refined sugar from sugarcane. It’s been scientifically proven that it’s not good for you – it’s not healthy and could even enhance your chances of getting cancer. It causes asthma in children and many other things. Plus, because it’s a refined substance and we’re eating so much of it, it acts like a drug. People get addicted to sugar. So I stay away from that. That has only happened in the last three years otherwise I eat everything. Whatever I feel like, I eat. But what happens is that when you are so focussed on your health, then you don’t feel the craving for food that is not good for you. Like when I see two things, one of which is healthy and the other which is not, my mind won’t even register that the second one is there. I don’t even have to say “I wish I could eat that”. It’s not that I’m sacrificing anything; I just don’t feel the urge for it. I used to smoke – I used to smoke 30 cigarettes a day. I was addicted to cigarettes and it took me two and a half years to stop smoking.

Do you have any advice for youngsters about fitness?

I would just say that be natural, be active and be happy. That’s it. Don’t chase after something that is an illusion. Know the difference between a dream and an illusion.

Who is the real Milind Soman? How would you describe yourself?

I am a very ordinary person. I like to explore. I like to learn new things all the time every day. I like people who inspire you to be better. I like positive things.

 

 

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