For a while now, and thankfully, Indians across the length and breadth of the globe celebrated the rise and rise of MC Mary Kom. It culminated in her spirited fight that earned her perhaps not the most deserving reward, in the form of an Olympic bronze; it was hailed as worth its weight in gold in medal-starved India.
Naturally, the Indian media went to town about Mary’s accolades and achievements and must we add, took great pains to chart her struggle and triumph against the odds. All of it, we noticed, was captured to the minutest detail. And for a change, we had the media showcasing her accolades in the ring from the time she was a name to reckon on the world arena, in a sport that few were willing to put their money in. And the icing on the cake was when all of India watched the tricolour go up at the medal ceremony, even as Magnificent Mary wrote a new chapter for sports in India.
All this while, the Western media, particularly those from Old Blighty, didn’t want to lose out on that perfect story from their ‘Third World’ counterparts. One could almost imagine the frenetic pace at which overzealous editors would have doled out half-baked briefs to their reporters — “Get that human angle. Bring in poor Indian saga. Remember Slumdog Millionaire?”
Rightly so, before and around the time of her bout with British darling Nicola Adams, stories about Mary began to emerge in newsprint, as well as on British television. The colonial hangover, clearly, didn’t seem to have left our former rulers. From tear-jerking analogies of her struggle in an “impoverish region” of India to mentions of her “humble beginnings” the press seemed to have forgotten (conveniently?) to have mentioned her triumphs in the ring, including her multiple world championship titles, her coming out of retirement, her boxing academy and her life as a sportsperson. Or is it that they simply chose not to see beyond the heart-wrenching story? One could almost sense the silent mocking tone with which some of the British commentators repeated sobriquets like “Magnificent Mary” and “Hail Mary” (crediting it all to the Indian media, of course).
This trend was observed across several sections of the media — TV, web and print. Gushing accounts of the homegrown champion knocking out the Indian mother of twins, who emerged from a tough background to put up a gritty show. Too bad, she couldn’t defeat the ultimate winner. Tomes of newsprint and air time were spent in taking us, rather painfully, though her less-than-fortunate Manipuri origins, her sacrifices and at times, references to strife and toil of her state. Soon, it became obvious that her sporting journey was completely missed in the din and drama.
One found this display appalling, for one — of a colonial hangover, of patronising the ‘have-nots’ with tidbits of sympathy and of poor journalism too, for missing the real story of a never-say-die, world champ.
Save us the sensationalism.
— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY