Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom lost her semi-final bout to Briton Nicola Adams on Wednesday evening. But Manipur won a crucial round in a fistfight of the psychological kind.
At Kangathei, the Kom tribe-dominated village, 45km south of state capital Imphal, some 900 people believed she had it in her.
“God just did not answer half of our prayers,” said Singlemnei Kom, 26, after elder sister Mary Kom lost to Nicola 11-6.
Kangathei, Mary Kom’s ancestral village, had momentarily forgotten the village’s woes — lack of basic amenities and adequate electricity — to concentrate on its TV sets. At Mary Kom’s ancestral house, where 25 people had crammed into the 6x12ft living room space, village elder Sanpu Kom, 60, had even organised a pre-bout prayer.
They applauded every time Mary Kom landed a punch on Nicola, sighed every time she took a beating before power played truant when the bout entered the third round. By the time a generator was arranged, the referee had held Nicola’s victorious arm up.
“Maybe, it was god’s wish that she lost,” Sanpu Kom said. “Maybe, He wants others in Manipur to outdo her.”
For decades, this frontier state bordering Myanmar has wished it could punch away geographical isolation, underdevelopment and the separatism they spawned.
And spar with the ghosts in the mind that made myriad militant outfits tap youth energy to combat ‘colonial’ India.
For many in Manipur — it was a princely state before merger in 1949 — India simply replaced the British. It was perhaps coincidental that on Wednesday a Briton came between an Indian and an Olympic gold.
Mary Kom’s journey from a Manipuri to an Indian is often attributed to a change in mindset — that fighting it out on a football field or boxing ring was a better career option than ambushing the armed forces.
“She is a legend who never gives up. Her guts, conviction, doggedness — we have a lot to learn from her,” said Yumnam Geeta, 26, a national boxing champion in 60kg category. Others felt women’s boxing was included in the Olympics four years too late for Mary Kom, a mother of two pushing 30.