Dimapur, July 11 (EMN): The phrase ‘it’s a man’s world’ did not stop 17-year old Pongam N Konyak from Wangti village in Mon district to break a stereotype. In a field where men stand, she has taken upon her slender shoulders, with another feisty teen 16-year old Nginlei Konyak, the way of the martial arts — and the mechanics of old fashioned hard work.
Pongam is a black belt in Taekwondo. She has three gold medals and a silver under her belt from state championships during the years 2012-15. The teenager also won a gold medal in the first ever Nagaland Olympics in 2017.
With the many accolades she has brought to the community, Pongam made known that nothing much has changed even after her winning streaks. That is until one day when Nginlei’s bicycle broke down and they had to visit a small workshop to get the bicycle fixed.
“We went to Amos Garage to get the bicycle fixed and saw the mechanical work being done on bikes which made us curious to learn how it was being done,” said Pongam.
Pongam’s vision is simple: “My parents are mere farmers and it is very difficult to do many things due to the financial situation,” she said. She said that once she learns the tricks and trade of working on bikes, she plans to open a garage too. “From there at least I will be able to earn my own money and will be able to do some things.”
Pongam and her companion Nginlei, who is also a green belt in Taekwondo, are being taught without salary at the workshop, which is located at the Fire Brigade in Mon town. They have been at the trade for the past three months.
When queried if there was any reaction when they began working at the workshop, Pongam replied that even in taekwondo there came discouragement from many people who said ‘it’s a man’s sport.’ So Pongam and Nginlei “definitely received a lot of negativity” for taking up the job at the garage.
“How will we move forward if we listen to the negativity and stop ourselves from doing something good for us?” Pongam asked saying that it was the only thought she has in her head.
Deep rooted prejudices in the Naga society has stopped young women from moving forward with what they want to achieve. That being said nothing stopped many women in history such as Helen of Troy or Joan of Arc as well.
The gender bias plague in which the society is in did not seem to stop the teenagers either. “I wanted to learn more and I asked the owner — who was more than happy enough to have one of his mechanics teach,” she says.
Pongam informed that due to the attention she received from social media she received calls from various taekwondo coaches from Dimapur and Kohima as well. “I always wanted to open an institute for martial arts and give classes but as I have mentioned, financially it is impossible. So if I get the opportunity to work in some institute I will,” she said.
What started as a journey into the world of taekwondo for Pongam was also a lesson about the constant threat that women face and still are facing. “There are many rape cases and we must learn how to protect ourselves if we are ever in any situation,” she replied.
“Just move forward and don’t let negativity and insult stop you. There is nothing that a woman cannot do that a man can do,” is what the young girl encourages her peers with.