Throwback: How falling off a horse inspired my own fitness revolution.
One of my earliest memories while growing up revolves around a pair of jeans. What made these denims so special? The fact that my dad bought me a pair with the words, ‘No fear’ written on it. Today, I can close my eyes and instantly go back in time and perfectly recall his voice telling me the same. No fear. The words took deep root in my young, curious mind, and were tattooed over my consciousness as I challenged myself to push my own boundaries further.
My parents knew the importance of sports, and throughout my childhood, we sportingly tried out everything — turning the playing ground into our very own trial room of sorts, as I tried out different forms of sports for size until we found the one that fit just right. Having discovered a winner in squash, I went on to play at the national level and participate in some international tournaments as well. As my schooling progressed, I discovered a keen interest in football and handball and even participated in a few competitions.
As I grew older, my love for sports simply grew with me, and I tried everything possible. I took up gymnastics and won a few medals in competitions, that were then proudly displayed on our mantle at home. I represented my school in 100m, 200m and 400m races, and even the relay.
On sports day, which had all the 4 branches of my school competing, I remember coming in first in multiple races with pride. I still vividly recall my grandfather showing up as the chief guest, and I was so excited to show him what I could do, that I tripped a few metres before the finish line of the 100m race. I could see my other competitors overtaking me, but all I could hear was my dad’s voice asking me to stand up and finish the race. And finish the race is what I did, despite knowing that I’d come in last.
There are some lessons you learn when you raise the winning trophy high above your head, and others that come the hard way. I remain grateful to them all, because they’ve all made me who I am today. I recall once when I fell down on the court during the squash nationals and injured my ankle (we found out later that it was a ligament tear). I was in agony. I could see the pain in my parents’ eyes, but their lips smiled. I managed to get up and complete the game, to prove, more to myself more than anyone else, that I could win this game, before eventually conceding the set. When someone asked my father why he didn’t run in to help me up, he replied, “She walked in on her own, she will walk out on her own as well, with her head held high.” My parents have always taught me to stand up and fight my own battles with strength and dignity, and for that, I shall remain always grateful.
When I was 13, I took up horse riding to feed my need for speed and soon after, I started participating in show jumping and other equestrian competitions, even standing first in a couple of categories. As I raced over hurdles, little did I know that the biggest one was yet to come. At the age of 15, I took a bad fall off a horse. The horse took off and I lost control — he wanted to go one way and I wanted to go another. I do not blame him at all, as it was my fault but in the midst of our communication concerns, I fell off the saddle and injured my knee. After undergoing immediate surgery, I was asked to stay away from strenuous sports and dancing.
Yes, at the ripe young age of 15, I had my heart broken, not by a boy, but with the news that I had to stay away from all forms of sports. The inner competitor in me, however, refused to die. I could all but see the chequered finishing line, I would just have to find my own path there. I started looking at different ways of healing and getting rid of the pain. My to-do list included everything from various exercise forms to physiotherapy, and although I was getting better, I knew that I wasn’t perfect.
It was around this time that my dad, Samir Purohit, was hosting a Pilates course in Mumbai. I asked if I could be a part of it, even though everyone else had a background in fitness and were certified instructors already. Against all odds, I managed to complete the course. I remember studying longer, putting in extra hours and working harder than everyone in the room to keep up. The payoff came when I was awarded the title of the ‘Youngest Trained Stott Pilates Instructor’ in the world. I still remember the rush of excitement that convinced me to continue on the path that I was on. For the first time in what felt like forever, I was absolutely pain-free and I decided to celebrate by playing the squash nationals that year. That I managed to win 4th place with barely any practice can be credited to Pilates, and the stability that it brought to my body. To my coach’s complete surprise, I was even better now than I was before my injury.
And I wasn’t the only one. My dad had also suffered a terrible back injury, and he would wake up every morning in pain for almost 20 years. After 4 days of Pilates, for the first time in years, he woke up with no pain. Father and daughter, we both became believers. This is when we knew that we had to make this magical form of exercise reach as many people as possible, and we launched The Pilates Studio in 2011, which now has multiple centre across the country.
And that is how it all began. It has almost been ten years since I started training, and every single day since then I have learned something new. That little teenager who would count down the minutes till the bell rang for the games period is still alive within me, but the role that fitness plays in my life has evolved. Fitness has played such a defining role in my formative years, and I’ve learned so much from it. And I keep learning more with each passing day.