When a hugely successful woman's husband declares to the press that his wife is “ too good to be true,” it actually says much more about the man than the lady he is referring to. By now, all of India has fallen in love with Mary Kom. Her proud husband, Onler Kom, will just have to get used to it. After all, Onler married a world champion. She had two mighty titles in her kitty in 2005, when Onler popped the question. That didn't change a thing, for he says he married “an angel”. As a sportsperson (footballer) himself, perhaps Onler understood his wife's grit and determination to excel in her chosen field. Not only did he keep his own sporting ambitions on hold, he sensibly decided to become Mary's manager and mentor.
After winning her bronze medal at the London Olympics, Mary's regulated and uncomplicated life has undergone several, rather dramatic changes. Apart from being a national sports' hero, she is a much admired youth icon and role model, drawing crowds of admirers wherever she goes. Check out the standing ovation she received at Shabana Azmi's Bollywood fashion show for charity where Mary shared the ramp with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, and walked away as the biggest star of them all! Someone who was present that night explained why Mary stole the show. “She was so herself, so natural…. Her simplicity scored over all those preening divas batting their fake eyelashes.” Aha! That was the secret—simplicity. In as high profile an existence that Mary will be a part of henceforth, she will need to tap into that very simplicity to stay grounded. To stay happy.
So far, none of the attention or adulation has gone to Mary's head. She comes across as a delighted child playing with new baubles. Those ‘baubles' happen to be medals, trophies and global accolades. Whether Mary subjects herself to a fashion makeover and graces the covers of glossies, from what her husband says about her, it would appear as if Mary remains untouched by the overnight glamour and glitz that is swamping her right now. She says she is happiest strumming the guitar and singing for Onler, cooking pork and rice for the family, and playing with her five-year-old twins. Mary insists she has faced no discrimination, despite belonging to a patriarchal society. Women across India, and possibly the world, are cheering for this spunky individual who to this day, cooks, cleans and looks after her kids without a trace of self-consciousness.
Compare her matter-of-fact attitude with the one displayed by other successful women who foolishly look down on what they call ‘house work'.
How it to all goes from this point on is going to be critical. Mary is on a roll right now. She will get endorsement deals galore. A movie is being planned on her extraordinary life. There will be countless invitations to travel and address international conferences. Celebrity is a seductive addiction. Mary has gone seamlessly from being an athlete of renown, a genuine achiever, to a very famous person. Apart from several national honours and awards that will inevitably come her way, her life will be overtaken by the accoutrements of fame—the wardrobe, the paparazzi shots, the high profile public appearances, the barrage of requests to participate in reality shows on television…. Yes, it's all happening. Will this adulation go to her sensible head? Will she be co-opted into the tinsel world of flashbulbs and photo shoots? How will it affect her life with Onler and the twins, one of whom has undergone heart surgery? The thing about this kind of fame (as opposed to the one she has enjoyed all along) is the superficiality of it all. Mary Kom is the flavour of the day—everybody wants a piece of Mary. But what is it that Mary wants? For herself? Her family? Her future? “She has been a giver all her life,” Onler was quoted as saying. Once a giver, always a giver.
But shall we also reserve a medal for Onler? It is because he gave that Mary could achieve her dream. He deserves our congratulations, too.