Mary Kom - What an Indian man can do!

The real-life story of Mary Kom, champion boxer from India is now on the silver screen where Priyanka Chopra has played the role of real-life Mary Kom. It is always exciting to see how stories of sporting legends are translated to the bigger screen. Case in example is Milkha Singh which was a good movie despite the fact that it focused more on his losses than his victories. It is always heartening to see that sports other than cricket are also gaining ground in the country and one way of popularizing other sports can be to draw audiences to stories of sporting legends through movies based on their life. This is one reason why Mary Kom was always meant to be a success (Here, I do not talk of success in the parameters of box office collections, but in the sense of the critical acclaim and the widespread appreciation that the movie has garnered). The real life story of a boxing champion from a small town in Manipur, her hard work, her struggles and her eventual success are all ingredients of inspiration. I am sure that by this effort people would at least become aware of other sporting stars who are doing the country proud.

As I entered the theater to watch Mary Kom, I was in no doubt that here was to unfold a story of a woman who had defied all odds in life to reach to the pinnacle of success. You could be in awe of her efforts, her never say die attitude and the way she makes it big into the boxing ring. But I never expected that the movie would introduce me to a never before seen side of an Indian man. Hence, I decided to write about Mary Kom not through the lens of a feminist (which I definitely am!) but from the eyes of an Indian male who continues to be ridiculed and made fun of in the name of both patriarchy and feminism. Three male characters made the real-life Mary Kom what she is. One, her father, who at the beginning stands vehemently opposed to her ideas and dreams of boxing and like any conventional father is worried about her marriage. The other is 'Coach Sir', one who makes Mary Kom what she truly deserved to be, mentoring her and steadfastly believing in her at all times. The third is of course the husband - Onler Kom who as Mary Kom has herself acknowledged left his full fledged career in football to look after their kids so that his wife could continue with her boxing dream and India could get her Mary Kom. All the three play a defining role in Kom's life in one or the other way. Recall a scene where the father gets emotional at a daughter's victory, a coach gets angry because he knows that Kom is star material and is at the peak of her career, or a husband who understands a wife's frustrations at being left out in her career even as he thoroughly supports her comeback into boxing. 

Without an iota of doubt, full credit to Mary Kom for her achievements. But I wonder what was the role of men in her life? Did they contribute to her achievements equally? Would Mary Kom be Mary Kom without the men in her life? I think both men and women need to look into these questions deeply and introspect how both genders can complement each other and support mutual success. Flush out all that men face in the name of feminism and the abuses that are hurled at them in the name of patriarchy and we will find men who risk their careers, their lives and their dreams to let the woman in their life be herself. Case in example is Bobby George who left his career to focus on his wife's (Anju Bobby George). I am sure one can find many examples from real life ones too - of men supporting women without inhibitions, without conditions. A wonderful campaign for gender equality #HeforShe initiated recently by the UN talks just that. Gender inequalities, discrimination, women's sufferings cannot be addressed and eliminated in isolation. Men's support if required too. It is time to admit the fact that men too are victims of gender inequalities and we cannot shut our eyes towards this fact. Right from facing the pressures of being breadwinners to being ridiculed as meek for respecting a wife's aspirations, from being labelled as weak on searching for an emotional outlet and for being forced to control ... men have become victims of stereotyping and it is we women who can help them come out of this. The #HeforShe campaign speaks just that - gender equality is an issue for both men and women and without significant support from men, gender equality will remain just that - a dream. (Check out this wonderful video of Emma Watson speaking about the #HeforShe campaign in the UN -

Coach Sir

For every Mary Kom, there is an Onler Kom, a coach sir and a father who pushes a woman to her limits of success. In a wonderful write up on the same movie, acclaimed Indian author Chetan Bhagat remarks, "It is time all this changes. If India has to move ahead, we have to optimize our resources, and women are half of our human resources.We have to help them reach their full potential too. And it is about time we men bring a little bit of Mr Mary Kom within us." (The Times of India, Sep 21, Indian men should channelize their inner Mr. Mary Kom - I believe he has made a very valid point since this is the time we can speak out that feminism is not about male-bashing, feminism is not anti-men. In feminism, men and women are equal partners. Lets salute all those men who support their wives, sisters, mothers. It is not something that we should shy away from acknowledging. It is time we put our hands together for the likes of Onler Kom, Coach sir and other such men who have redefined manhood by being true champions of the feminist cause.
Real life Mary Kom with her husband Onler Kom 


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