By Soumitra Bose
London, Aug 10 : Among a sea of British fans cheering Nicola Adam’s historic gold at the ExCel Arena on Thursday evening, Akham chose to be calm and relaxed. Probably, that’s the way a woman who has seen the odds of life, celebrates!
Akham doesn’t speak English or Hindi. She has rarely stepped out of Imphal.
Thanks to Mary’s sponsors Procter & Gamble, she had made the trip to London. Mary’s bronze medal made the trip very special. Mary’s husband Onler acts the interpreter and after a lot of persuasion, Akham obliges to say a few words.
“Mary has been a very special child. We never thought that she will become a boxer. I can’t imagine that she has won an Olympic medal. When she started boxing, we were so scared that she would get hurt,” said Akham.
“I am sad that we didn’t support Mary the way she should have been. When she was six years old, the family was struggling for existence. We didn’t have the luxury of a square meal. I used to stitch clothes and her father used to do nominal jobs. How can we support an athlete?” Akham said.
“But then God plans everything and Mary grew up to be a special kid. She is good at anything she does and today she has an Olympic medal. All credit to her,” she added.
Onler said Mary’s hard work has given the Kom family a footing in a difficult state. “It’s not easy to live in Manipur. There are a lot of socio-economic problems. If Mary’s gold can bring about changes, the society will progress,” he said.
While we speak, Onler’s android flashes a message from Mary’s secretary in Imphal, Jimmy. It says the Assam government has already announced Rs 20 lakh grant for the small academy that Mary and Onler have built. “It’s good news. I am told ONGC and SAI will also help,” Onler adds.
The Koms prefer to keep a low profile. “We always have. Boxing is not an easy sport and it has been a struggle to come to this point. Today, Mary is enjoying the fruits of labour. We have just been her support system. Nothing else,” says Onler.
As the media hounds Mary for interviews and photographs, the Koms melt away in the crowd. The security restrictions are too stringent in London and prohibit a family-athlete meeting. “We are going to have a long night at the hotel. Don’t worry,” Onler signs off.