The 29-year-old Mary Kom, a Manipuri woman who is a five time world champion, clinched a historic bronze in women's boxing which was introduced in the Olympics for the first time. It is a victory not only for a sportsperson, but also for the women power of Manipur.
In Rabindranath Tagore's story, Chitrangada is the only child of the King of Manipura. Being the heir to the throne, she dresses like a man and is the protector of the land. Her people look to her to keep them safe. One day, she meets Arjuna and, seeing him in action as he hunts in the forest, she falls in love. Arjuna is impressed by her fighting abilities but all along believes her to be a man. Chitrangada believes he could never love her the way she is. What Tagore focuses on is the women power of Manipur. It impresses even Arjun, the hero of the Mahabharata.
Mary Kom is today seen as the symbol of women power of Manipur. She had to go through a physically stressful transition to be eligible for Olympics by jumping from 48kg to 51kg. Mary Kom, the Manipuri woman is an Indian boxer for whom Nicola was too strong and too savvy. It is not much surprising that Mary even after being the five-time World Boxing champion had to succumb. But she is the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships. She won a silver medal at the 2008 Asian Women's Boxing Championship in India and a fourth successive gold medal at the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship in China, followed by a gold medal at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam. She is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51kg) category.
Mary put up a sterling show against boxers who were much taller and heavier than her and won the bronze medal. Adam was very clever, a counter-puncher. She carried power, yet she was not very tactical. Mary is happy even after the defeat as she won the first Olympic medal for Manipur as well as for India. Today her native village Kangtei of Manipur is in the limelight of attention of all sports loving persons who hailed the brave mom of Manipur.
Manipuri women do not stay behind the veil. Manipur is obsessed with the love of sports. For years the state has been representing the Indian Flag in Commonwealth, Asian, and Olympics Games and brought laurels for the state and country. The role of Manipuri women in sports can be traced back to pre-British Period when Manipur was under monarchial system. The womenfolk launched movements to save people from the clutches of liquor and drugs. The glaring instances of collective women's power in Manipur are such movements as Nupilan, Meirapaibi and Marup which show the women power.
Womenfolk in Manipur are accorded high status, but still the society is in the womb of the patriarchal system. Women have no much say in the decision making process. Their representations both in the secondary and tertiary sectors are quite minimal. The preference of male child is still prevalent. There are certain rituals where women's involvements are considered profane and restricted their participation. Women produce children; they are mothers and wives; they do the cooking, mending, sewing and washing; they take care of men and are subordinate to male authority; they are largely excluded from high status occupations and from positions of power.
According to the 2001 census, Manipur has a total population of 2,388,634. Out of these the numbers of males and females are 1,207,388 and 1,181,296 respectively. The literacy rate of the state is 68.87 %. For males the literacy rate is 77.87 % while for females it is 59.70 %. Thus there is a gap of 18.17 % in the male-female literacy rate, which clearly indicates the prejudices of the society towards the female child. It is also worth noting that 40.30 % of the female populations are illiterate.
Manipur has shown its best in football. The people of this state are literally obsessed with sports. It is not exaggerating to say that people have been frequently getting work-leaves just to see the finales of any game hosted by the state.
Mary Kom is now the source of inspiration for the sports loving people. But more than that her fight in the Olympics has revealed once more the women power of Manipur. Nevertheless, one Mary Kom cannot change the situation fully. Manipur has shown the way to the other states of the North East. The picture will be brightened in future. Women are yet to be half the sky in Manipur and in the whole of the North East. Still women are becoming targets of male violence at home and also outside. Mary Kom’s victory in glorious fight in world arena will bring a better tomorrow for women.