The previous weekend was special for India particularly for people from the north-eastern part of the country. It was all thanks to boxing legend MC Mary Kom who created history by becoming the first woman to win six world championship titles and joint-most successful boxer (men and women) in the history of the competition—she equalled Cuban legend Felix Savon’s record of six gold medals and one silver medal. Her win was extra special for the people of the Northeast for the simple reason that she had become the face of the region; the bridge that linked it with the rest of the country by her incredible success story over the years. If not for her, people from the region staying in various metropolitan cities may have had to respond to more silly questions about their “country” supposedly situated in and around China, Nepal, Malaysia, or Japan.
We can access news from across the globe today. But it was a different story altogether before the internet and mobile phone revolution happened. Finding a story related to the Northeast in the national newspapers and the electronic media was a privilege in the ‘90s and 2000s. When it did, it was mostly for all the wrong reasons like violence, disaster, and conflict between underground groups and the Indian army. The repercussion of portraying the region in negative light for years was huge as it created fear psychosis in the minds of many people about the region. But the common perceptions about this part of the country have slowly started changing, thanks to the internet revolution and for the sportspersons the region has produced. Mary Kom, who won her first World Amateur Boxing Championships gold in 2002 before going on to win many titles, is the perfect ambassador for the region. She captured the hearts of the Indians by winning her fourth world championship gold in 2008, after becoming a mother; and repeating the success in 2010. She went on to prove her detractors wrong by winning a medal in the Olympics in 2012 despite fighting in the 51 kg category against her usual 46 kg weight category. Besides winning several other competitions at the international level, the mother of three won one more gold in the world championships last week, which was her sixth title in the competition. It is a feat that no female boxer has achieved till date. Today, she is a household name in India, perhaps the only person from the entire Northeast whose name resonates in the minds of people cutting across boundaries. If there is one person who best connects the region with the people from the rest of India, it has to be this super woman. Many from across the world may see you through her today and not through someone from a strange country. We need more Marys to let the world know that there is so much more beyond India’s chicken neck.