Book Review UnBreakable, Autobiography of MC Mary Kom: Inspiring as it tells what a woman is capable of. Also tells why putting a woman in leadership position is a great idea. A Woman is much stronger than we Think her to be.
During 2012 London Olympics, I was stunned by the statement of M. C. Mary Kom, “I apologize to the people of India for not winning Gold” (After All, You don’t Win a Silver; You Lose the Gold). Here was a lady, who had won an Olympic medal for a country which has a habit of worshiping those who missed the medal by a whisker and she was apologizing for not winning gold. I already had great respect for her and it multiplied manifold that day.
Sitting to review her Autobiography, Unbreakable My Story, I can’t but admit, “This will be done by a fan rather than a reviewer”. Let me proceed with my job after this introduction.
Mangte Chungneijang ‘Mary’ Kom is a 5 times World Champion boxer from Manipur, India and is a Champion like very few we know in India.
Unbreakable, her autobiography is articulated by Dina Serto and published by Harper Sport, an imprint of Harper Collins publishers. It is a well packaged book in soft cover, running to just 155 pages with 12 pages of precious photographs of Mar Kom, her moments of glory and her family. The prologue gives an introduction of where Mary Kom is today. There are 17 chapters, 5 annexures and acknowledgements.
Chapter 1: And then I was born dwells on her parents, the tough times they had gone through and her birth. Pretty neatly presented.
Chapter 2: All work and no play can be the story of any girl child, anywhere in India. But here, little Mary Kom tells us how she helped her Apa [father] and Anu [mother] with house hold work, farm work and yet managed to study for her school. She also goes to some lengths about life in rural Manipur, their diet and lifestyle.
Chapter 3: Playing too was hard work This is about her brush with sports, early days, the struggles at Sports Authority of India [SAI] facilities and her decision to take up Boxing as her sport by approaching Oja Imbocha. She also lists her schedule during the training. Some of the politics in sports bodies in India comes out durig the narration. Her father’s initial opposition to her taking up boxing and the subsequent accent are narrated well.
Chapter 4: My first international medal deals with the Silver medal she won at the first World Women’s Boxing Championship at Pennsylvania, USA in November-December 2001.
Chapter 5: Onler and I is all about how she met, got acquainted with and fell in love with Onler Kom, whom she went on to marry subsequently. I must say, here is a ‘Man behind the success of a woman’ who firmly remained behind her. It was interesting to know her Apa was against this alliance and refused to drink the tea boiled by Onler’s family in a custom unique to this Manipuri tribe. They married on 12 March 2005.
Chapter 6: Back to work is an extremely short account of how she returned to the ring shortly after the marital bliss. There is a short account on how fear of doping charges forced her to stay off any treatment for common illnesses.
Chapter 7: Other face of Manipur tells us about the unfortunate, untimely and unexplained assassination of her father in law, who was a respected Chieftain of his village. A completely shattered Onler turns violent and wants to take to militancy to avenge his father’s death.
Chapter 8: A new beginning changes a lot of things in her life. It is about the news of her pregnancy and how it changes the attitude of Onler and about the birth of her twins on 5 August 2007. The twins are named Rengchungvar and Khupneivar after her father in law and father respectively. She also tells us how kids are named in that part of India and about kids named Cyclethang. A funny yet interesting read indeed.
Chapter 9: The Come back is all about her travails on her come back after a 2 year break owing to motherhood. The politics involved in awards like Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is mentioned. There also is a mention of the linguistic and racial differences that exist in India. How the people of North east are called Chinki and how the Manipuris call people from mainland India Mayangs.
Chapter 10: The operation is an account of the surgery her younger son underwent for a congenital heart ailment and the recovery.
Chapter 11: And then again is about the sixth World Championship at Barbados where she won her fifth gold. And about the following adulation and getting to play at the Olympics.
Chapter 12: The highs and lows is the best part of the story where she opens up about the administration of sports in India, the politics, the regional bias, the coaches and their ego clashes etc. But she suddenly jumps from the topic and leaves the story unfinished.
Chapter 13: The countdown gives an insight into how different categories of weights work in boxing. We also get information about her preparation with help from her sponsors and then the Olympic Gold Quest [OGQ] and the support she got.
Chapter 14: At the Olympics is the story of Mary’s days at London Olympics 2012 and the bronze medal and her disappointment and the famous apology to the people of India.
Chapter 15: What came after dwells with the adulation, felicitations at different places and rewards.
Chapter 16: My tryst with glamor is about her modeling and ramp walking experience and also her time with Indian cine celebrities. For one who thought Indian [Hindi] movies were boring and loved Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies, Mary had come a long way. We also come to know Priyanka Chopra will be playing Mary Kom in the upcoming movie on her.
Chapter 17: My vision for future dreams big for boxing in India. She wants to churn out champions using her experience and passion. But she also is aware of the system in India that can undo best of the plans.
Afterword is about her second pregnancy and birth of Chungthanglen or Prince. She has her eyes set on Olympics 2016.
The annexures enumerate the long list of her awards, medals and letters of appreciation. It also has a word about her sponsors and her favorite Bible verses. Mary wears her religion on her sleeve and quite apparently detests old practices of her tribe that go against Christianity.
Acknowledgements is a thanks giving process in which she brackets her parents with family without a special mention. May be just a small error.
Overall, this is a neatly packaged book on a Champion Boxer and one of the rarest produced by India. Honestly I was disappointed for the complete lack of details about her five World Championship victories. Or was it because she is too modest to talk about her victories ? She also leaves the talk of politics in sports halfway and thus leaves the reader to do the guesswork. Has she left it halfway because she is still active and doesn’t want to be black-listed ? She was once banned for questioning the decision of judges during national championships. Perhaps she is wiser today to know the treacherous system that runs sports in India.
Finally for being what she is, Unbreakable, Hail Mary !