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First Of Her Kind

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Trisha Ghoroi in conversation with the global brand ambassador of Zumba and receiver of a ‘First Lady’ award, Sucheta Pal, about the dance form

Getting recognised in your field is a big achievement in itself, but receiving an award from the president of the country is a much bigger feat. On January 20th this year, 112 women were honoured by the Ministry of Women & Child Development for being the first to achieve milestones in their respective fields. A few names among the awardees that you’ll instantly recognise were ace shuttler P V Sindhu, pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, gymnast Dipa Karmakar, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Also featuring on that list was Sucheta Pal, who received an award for being the first Indian to attain the position of Global Brand Ambassador for India as the Master Trainer in Zumba. We got a chance to catch up with her and talk about Zumba and how she reached the summit. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

How were you introduced to Zumba?

I remember it was a freezing winter in Connecticut (USA) in 2009. I walked to a nearby dance studio. The energy of the class, my instructor’s million dollar smile, the Latin music, the happiness and the warmth I received that day from the 80 participants and the instructor warms my heart to this day. That was the day I decided that I would walk that walk, or dance it through, for the rest of my life.

How did it feel when you found out that the president of India would be presenting you with this award?

It was surreal! I didn’t just have butterflies in my stomach, but an entire insect kingdom dancing inside me! I had to allow it to sink in and only then was I able to break the news to my family. I felt honoured, humbled and blessed that I shared the stage with the president and accomplished personalities from different fields.

You quit your IT job to take up Zumba. What struggles did you face along the way and how difficult was it to survive in the city?

Have you ever seen a juggler or a tightrope walker perform? If you had met me when I was 25-years-old, you would have seen me handling my life somewhat like that. I was juggling six hours of gruesome dance trainings and three part-time jobs — transcribing cassettes, working late nights at a fashion house and selling books for an NGO for 5% commission. I had to balance my finances like a tightrope walker. I still remember, I used to commute wearing a sari and travel by bus and change trains at Dadar station to reach Dombivli or Dahisar municipal schools and lived on vada pavs (well, it’s still undoubtedly my favourite food!) as a staple.

The struggle didn’t end there. You were diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. How did you cope with it?

The stress stemmed from the realisation that my calling was beyond a cubicle and a computer. Now this sudden realisation, coupled with lifestyle health issues, made me miserable. I felt trapped. It seemed impossible to crawl out of the trap.

I decided to have an iron mind, a mind that could dream, a mind that could overcome any obstacle in the path of that dream, and a mind that was hopeful of possibilities — a mind that would never give up. It is a self-promise that I did not break.

As a Zumba Education Specialist, where do you see this fitness-slash-dance form going? How popular do you think it will be among the youth?

Zumba is more than just a fitness form. It has touched so many hearts and has become much more than an hour in our day. It’s a meaningful pillar in various aspects. It’s not just for the youth; we have people of all age groups and from all walks of life spreading their love for Zumba.

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