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Kashma’s Courage & Strength

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Success in any sport requires not just physical power but an equally powerful mind, focused on rising above challenges. One female bodybuilder, Kashma Maharaj, knows that she has EARNED her success.


Kashma grew up in the south and attended Naparima Girls’. She was always athletic, very involved in gymnastics and track & field, and although as body conscious as any other normal young girl, she’d always thought a strong female physique was much more attractive than a skinny one. She was a confident young lady, surrounded by a loving family, and one of the ‘popular kids’. She even had the fairy tale romance… she met her future husband while they were both in high school and they stayed together until they were eventually married when she was 24. Two years later, her perfect world crashed. Her fairytale ended in divorce from the man she had known for practically half her life, and as inexperienced as she was in the world of dating, her next relationship turned out to be an abusive one.  


Then she suffered through the traumatic horror of being attacked at gunpoint, robbed and almost raped. It was then that her initial foray into bodybuilding took on a whole new meaning. She left all of her anguish on the floor of the gym, focusing instead on pushing the limits of every single muscle in her body. At first it was a way to get the hurt out… to be fit and healthy and not broken… but then it became about much more: the sense of empowerment it gave her, the striking and beautiful image staring back at her in the mirror, the renewed purpose and fulfillment it brought to her life. 


Her mother, loving & supportive as she always was, worried about her changing physique, telling Kashma that she was perfectly beautiful just the way she was and she didn’t understand why she wanted to “spoil herself” like that. With time, Kashma was able to help her mom understand the positive effect bodybuilding was having on her life, but she continued to face it from the public. Snide comments from women, said just loud enough for her to hear, and sexist, at times vulgar, remarks from men used to hurt so much that it made her cry. She found herself sometimes deliberately choosing baggy clothing, and hanging out mostly with other bodybuilders, just to avoid attention. She has also faced severe professional challenges. The field of female bodybuilding in T&T used to have a lot more local competition, but the numbers have substantially diminished because of the lack of proper support. Even the prize incentives for female competitors are hugely disproportionate to male competitors.


Kashma has competed successfully in her category, but says that she continued to be sidelined many times in favor of TTBBF-trained athletes. TTBBF (Trinidad & Tobago Body Building Federation) is the governing body for the sport, but also trains athletes who in turn go up against non-TTBBF-trained athletes in qualifying for competition, and the qualifying process is judged by the TTBBF. In 2011, she was again asked by the TTBBF to sit out of other competitions and just compete in Arnold Classic USA 2012. One month before the competition, she was told that she needed to find sponsorship, not just herself but for the entire team, to go to the competition. Only because she’d already built up a large professional network was Kashma able to pull it off, getting a number of US-based sponsors to come on board. Then came another blow: TTBBF told her that she had to find sponsorship for all of the required officials to accompany the team also. This time though, the organisers of the competition and her sponsors stepped in, querying the TTBBF’s actions and sending a written letter of complaint calling the actions unfair and unnecessary. TTBBF’s response was to pull the entire team from the show.


Fed up and frustrated, Kashma resigned from the local body and moved to the US where she was immediately snapped up by the US Virgin Islands and once again registered to compete in the show, but it was still not to be. The TTBBF wrote a letter of complaint to say that she was still their athlete (claiming that they had not accepted her resignation because it was submitted when she was in an emotional state) and labeling her a difficult, problematic athlete (allegations which they later were forced to retract). Because the legalities of the issue could not be ironed out in time, she was pulled from the show literally moments before she was about to step out on stage. It took legal action for her to get officially released from the TTBBF but she was finally successful in June 2012. Only then was she able to compete for the USVI at the Arnold Classic USA 2013, where she triumphed in her category, in full view of the delegation from the TTBBF sitting in the front row.


Although she justifiably savours the victory, Kashma is not about retribution, and certainly is not allowing the past to get in the way of her future. She walks with her head held high, in sexy clothing, proud of herself, her body and her achievements. She is happily newly-wed to fellow bodybuilder Zaahid Hosein, and lives in Tampa where she still competes for the USVI. She has a huge international fan base and sponsors from Europe, Central America & the US. Hers is a story of triumphant success in the face of challenge, and is a sad loss to the sport of female bodybuilding in this country. She is currently in T&T until October, is using the opportunity to host personal training sessions. For further info, find her on Facebook or email at [email protected] or call 323-6248.


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