Talwalkar’s most popular trainer left a void when she embarked from her hometown to the distant land of Amrika. Her chivvying and encouragement went a long way to making gym fun for her legions of dedicated student fans.
Pune’s loss was Naperville’s gain.
Poona born Sampada Thatte nee Shah’s earliest memories are of playing with her sisters in the playground next to their home and singing songs while gardening as a family. A far cry from her fitness induced lifestyle.
Post school at HHCP, Huzurpaga and law at Symbiosis, she got a diploma in Japanese before finally stumbling onto the profession that would dictate her career path. Sampada did an ACE certified personal training and group fitness instructor course and began teaching at Gazelle for three years before spending a decade at Talwalkars on FC Road.
Marriage brought an end to her fitness goals in India but she pursued them across the ocean as a personal fitness trainer at Bally Total in Naperville, Illinois and then at LA Fitness.
The Naperville YMCA benefited from her group fitness classes too. Sampada currently works as a physical therapist assistant at Tabor Hills, a senior living centre in Naperville and as a group fitness instructor at the Naperville Park district. While she enjoys her fitness forays in Illinois, she does miss her group classes and personal training sessions in Pune.
Her signature moves to Bollywood songs infected her class with enthusiasm and raised her energy level. That kind of personal appeal is not seen in the US.
Apart from ensuring her students remain fit, Sampada is trying to inculcate Indian values in her 12-year-old daughter. For the last four years, her daughter attends Marathi school on Sundays gaining a basic grasp on how to read and write their native tongue. Marathi is also the language of communication within the four walls of the Thatte home. As a family, they volunteer at the Maharashtra Mandal Chicago. That apart, they regularly participate in Marathi dramas and dances during Ganesh and Diwali festivals.
Initially, Sampada visited Pune every two to three years. She vividly recalls her first visit back post marriage and the special welcome her mum gave her with her favourite food and pampering her. She relished things she had taken for granted until she left. Her parents are now deceased and though she tries to visit more regularly, she has not been back since 2013.
She finds Pune quite different from the city of her youth. It is more crowded, has too many buildings and is beset with traffic issues.
It is still home for her but she doesn’t see herself returning, though there is the old dictum, ‘never say never’.
One thing she can never get enough of is the food.
While she misses her mother’s cooking the most, Vaishali and The Place come a close second. She also enjoys indulging in road-side pavbhaji, bhel and panipuri. She has not yet allowed America to sanitize her system.
Sampada misses her friends and family in Pune but feels equally welcomed by the people she has met in her adopted home. She feels she has been blessed by kind and loving friends. She also enjoys the unlimited and easy access to resources allowing her to acquire more knowledge.
Far away from her janmabhoomi, this Pune girl thrives in her karma bhoomi. As she says, Jai Bharat, Jai Pune, Jai America.