On the back of his neck, in clear green letters, is the name Nasiba. At the moment, there is no time to ask him about the tattoo. He is surrounded by a sea of voices, hoots and loud cheering. Chitharesh Natesan, shirtless on request, is stretching out his arms, showing off his biceps as boisterous teenagers pose with him for selfies. It is 1 pm and an exam is about to begin at the Government Arts College in Thiruvananthapuram, but students seem in no hurry to leave their guest, the new Mr Universe. Only minutes ago, Chitharesh had been given a reception by the Kerala Youth Welfare Board for bringing that Mr Universe title home.
It was on November 10 that he won the cup at the 11th World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in South Korea, and became the first Indian to do so.
Also present at the Government Arts College with Chitharesh was Kadakampally Surendran, state Minister for Co-operation, Tourism and Devaswoms, who reminded the audience that Chitharesh is the first Malayali to win the honour.
When Chitharesh took the mic, he mentioned that he studied at the Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education (LNCPE) in Thiruvananthapuram. Those were days before he focused entirely on weight training. His passion was hockey back then, and he was also the captain of his college team. The little weight training he did since he was ten was a few self-taught pushups and pullups.
â€śI am from Vaduthala, Ernakulam and took my BA in History from the Maharajas College. It is after that I graduated from the LNCPE,â€ť Chitharesh says, when he finally leaves the arts college and has a few minutes before lunch.
After LNCPE, he found a job as a personal trainer at the Rejuvenation Fitness Group in Delhi. There, he could not play much hockey. He focussed more on weight training and Sagar MP, who graduated with him from the LNCPE, became his coach.
On a typical day, Chitharesh would start his mornings with his clients, and in the afternoon and night, spend two hours each on his own workouts. There would be meals every two or three hours, with protein, carbohydrates and fat in required amounts.
Kadakampally Surendran had mentioned this in his speech too. â€śI asked Chitharesh, out of curiosity, what he eats. He said 10 to 40 eggs. I asked him where does he get the money for all this, does the job pay enough? And he said he had to take some loans for all the training.â€ť
Chithareshâ€™s father is a farmer. Natesan and Nirmala, his parents, are also on stage, sitting with their smiles and a rose someone gave them. â€śThe family had to struggle a lot. At one point we had to pawn some of my sisterâ€™s jewellery for my training,â€ť says, Chitharesh who has two sisters, Sowmya and Neethu.
Chitharesh's parents, Nirmala and Natesan
And finally, we find out about the tattoo. Nasiba and Chitharesh met five years ago, got married about two years later. â€śShe is from Uzbekistan. We met at a gym in Delhi. It is a love story, a long and happy one,â€ť he says, smiling. The tattoo is permanent, he says, like the wife.
Nasiba is quite understanding of Chithareshâ€™s strict regime too. â€śThose are the prices you pay â€“ having very little time for your personal life. But now I need to find a government job â€“ state or central, and move to Kerala to look after my parents. I havenâ€™t been able to do much for them these last 10 years. My dream had been to represent the country and win a championship, and thatâ€™s done.â€ť
Chitharesh and Nasiba
Chitharesh has won Mr Delhi and Mr India titles in previous years, representing Delhi in those competitions. This year, he represented Kerala and got selected in the Indian team in Hyderabad. The next step was taking part in the Mr Asia championship in Indonesia. There, he won the overall championship in the 90 kg category. One month later, he repeated that in South Korea â€“ winning gold medal in overall championship and becoming Mr Universe.