Oh !!! M.C. Mary Kom

Emboi Serto *

M.C. Mary Kom Olympic Bronze Medallist

KOM - the tribe M.C.Mary Kom belongs to is one of the six recognized tribes that form the KOMREM (Aimol, Chiru, Kom, Koren, Kharam and Purum). In Manipur we number around 40000 but are scattered in the foothills of all the districts. We also have descendants from the same forefathers though with different names in other states, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, to name a few. Kom is not even the name that we call ourselves in those early times; it is rather a modern creation. If all these people are counted as one entity rather than separately, the population may far exceed the numbers mentioned previously.

The upbringing of Mary's father may have been less than fortunate but nevertheless was of a royal family. Mary's great grandfather, Pu. M. Khupneitong, was the chief of the biggest Kom village "Sagang" in the 1940's, from which, 13 villages have sprang up. His chieftainship was known as the glory days for the Koms, far and near with households in excess of 1000 houses. Her grandfather too was a legend among his contemporaries for his hunting skills. It was in the eighties that M. Tonpa Kom, father of M.C. Mary Kom decided to shift to his adopted village, Kangathei another Kom village.

Mary's better half, Onler is the third son of the chief from Samulamlan village. Therefore, there exists no doubt in the twin sons of Onler and Mary of their royal lineage and bloodline.

My personal association with M.C. Mary Kom and her achievements dates back to the year 2000 and since the last 12 years the intensity have never ebbed, rather her endeavors invigorate these attachments to the point of being etch as a part of these living dream. It all started on a fine morning of December 2000 when Mary, just a 17 year old teenager, had to participate on the 7th East Open Boxing Championship that was proposed to be held between 11th and 14 of that month. I as a President of KRSU (GHQ) and some members had seen her off at AOC bus-stand.

A gift a meager 500 rupee and a Kom Ponvei (Traditional Wrap Around for Women) were presented to her. She was also requested to wear the Ponvei on the victory podium. This was during the time of Dingko winning the Gold Medal at the Asian Games and the state was filled with Dingko fever. The state Govt.'s awareness for women's boxing was next to non-existent. Nevertheless, it was Dingko and his exploits in and out of the ring which inspired Mary, to take up boxing in the first place. Her selections have always been based on merit. Why so, the Deputy Director of YAS even commented that she hits her opponent Bop-Bop-Bop, which describes it all.

During a training session at Bangalore, Mary had lost all are belongings from her room including all the money that she had. She had called up and had cried like a small child. Yes, in fact she was a small child then. God, our almighty was there. Dr. Angam Limai, a Tangkhul Surgeon travelled 40 km and give her Rs. 5000/-. In another occasion, during a lightning training session at SAI Chandigarh, in preparation for the World Cup Boxing Championship at Hungary 2002, she had lost everything including her passport while travelling on a train. There were some very unpleasant moments between me and her coach who was travelling with her. Again an Assamese gentleman (Regional Passport Officer) issued a fresh passport in a record one day which was just ensured her participation in the world championship at the 11th hour. She came back with a Gold Medal (one of many). The odds were always stacked up against her but yes GOD is always there to make a way.

Mary may have had many uncomfortable moments but inside the ring, these moments come hardly ever at best. A tally of 30 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 bronze medals before the summer Olympic 2012 at London in many National and International competitions is a feat that will take more than a herculean effort to beat. At times she must have wondered, if all these were all real or are just a fraction of a dream. She has achieved everything that was achievable and done every that was doable. Yet, pride was never part of her life but in humility and humbleness are her means and ways of life. The many laurels that she received which includes Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna, Padma Shree, Indian Real Heros, Youth Icon, Sports Women of the year speaks volume her as a person and not just as a sportsperson.

Memories remain fresh of the good old days, when we call on the residences of the Governor, Chief Minister, MP's and MLA's for a cup of tea. A small room at KR Lane where the President of KRUM, Mr Larkhomang Karoung, with eyes closed gave advices about a thing or two. The Euphoria of the press conference at Hotel Excellency with her coaches Ibomcha and Kishan. Felicitation fiasco at KRBCA complex and at Sagang Bazar. The many tired and lonesome waiting for the then sports Minister A Aza's Quarter. Eating Bengali fish curry at one hotel in Gandhi Avenue without a fan on a shimmering hot summer day. Hair straightening, not in a parlor but inside a crowded Checkon hair Saloon.

The not so short lectures by S. Songboi and L. Kailun on the 101 ways of boxing at Lamphel. Eating Ima's Sinju, bora, kangou to kanu's different kind of meat sold at Checkon Bazar were things which reminded me of earlier times and our indifferent lives with the people around us.

I am also reminded of the time when a National Channel decided to make a documentary on her. And we were off to Kangathei to meet her. I was the translator for her father while Mary communicated in broken Hindi, during the interviews. Due appreciations should be given for such coverage by the National Channel that Mary Kom became a household name in India and not just in Kangathei.

Mary Kom's relatives, especially her father are of great humility. They would never turn the other side in the servitude for the betterment of the society. Mary Kom's father could have rode the wave of success acquiring bungalows, fancy cars etc yet he choose to ride the cycle rickshaws, wear the same second hand but dignified apparels bought from shops selling Moreh goods. I use to often meet Uncle at Moirang Lamkhai and since from the first time I met him to the most recent meeting, he is the same, never changing. This makes me ponder, if his two run down rooms at Kangathei have ever been renovated?

Reminiscence of the manner of how Mary and her family moved into the present residence at Langol Game Village plays into my mind whenever I go to their residence. The very important extra key from a very important Vaiphei gentleman. The humble assistance from the Chief Minister, the state government, I will forever remember them for their selfless acts.

It was 2005, "Mary Kom getting Married!" We were dumbstruck, lost for words, aghast at the thought of the inevitable marriage. How? Why? What are people thinking? Why marry at 22? Is there a future? Is it all over? Is this dream-run, over? A Million questions with no answers, at that moment. Yet, Mary decided to answer all those with more than a befitting reply. The flurry of medals that included 15 Gold, 2 Silvers and 1 Bronze was in a way to proclaim that she was still in the thick of the business. Yes, when the Almighty Father chooses/selects an individual for a purpose, it will be accomplished no matter come what may.

The thrill and the camaraderie inside us are too much to contain. Everyone from all walks of life, laymen, farmers, doctors, engineers, teachers, police personnel, lawyers, church leaders, chiefs, social workers, students, house wives etc from the old peers to the young energetic youths, everybody in the Komhrem community contributed to this success. The many prayers and fasting programs at various churches, fellowships of not just the Komhrem but in other communities, associations, organizations, unions etc bear fruit and had not remained unanswered. All prayers, love, sacrifice, assistances, contributions in every way have molded Mary to what she is today, The "Magnificent Mary".

Special mention can be made to the lucky Komhrem fraternity of Delhi. Lucky because they were there at the right place, right time and right moment. They braved cold winter breezes; bask in hot summer sun, waiting for hours at Delhi IGI airport every time their sister Mary returns from her sojourns abroad. Never for once do they miss the chance to welcome home their hero. What proud moments it use to be. Mary Kom's gratitude towards her friends, peers, love ones especially towards her tribe, Komhrem must be beyond words. I am sure, deep inside her heart; she must be imploding over and over again. Like a last act in the Classics, the knock-out left upper cut in a bout, Mary must be reserving the best for her people. The fact that she is married to a Kom, who beats in the pulse and feelings of a world class champion; on whom she can depend as her pillar through everything is something everyone can emulate.

"I want to tell Indians that I'm sorry I could not get a gold medal. But I'm satisfied. I gave it all. My dream of an Olympic medal is fulfilled". "It has been so long...long...long..long waiting for this medal. I'm happy". "She is a good counter boxer. She is also clever. And she is stronger…not tactically but physically. Then she had the support of the home crowd". These are few of the comments made by Mary Kom which. Even in defeat, she is humble to the heart and down to earth on her approach and even to her opponents. Mary Kom is a strong will women and I know that the life she is going to live hereafter will be a journey full of commitments not only to the Komhrem people and the boxing fraternity but to all Indian as well as to the world which gave her fame, riches and glory.

Today, her Olympic bronze medal from London 2012 is all because of the prayers from every corner of the globe especially from the Christian community. To acknowledge all will not be easy. I have no blood relationship with Mary Kom nor am I related in any way. I just happen to be from the same village with her father...but the SMS I received and the email and phone calls all made me proud to be a KOM.


*Emboi Serto wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao [English Edition}
This article was posted on August 19, 2012.

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