The small northeastern state of Manipur continues to produce world-class sportspeople. No less than six of them are wearing India’s colours in Rio, says author Roopa Pai.
(Published with permission from Roopa Pai, who first wrote this post on her Facebook wall. Photo courtesy @DDNewsLive on Twitter)
If stats are your thing, you may be interested in the fact that the state of Manipur is roughly the size of New Jersey, and that its population is roughly one-fourth the size of Bangalore’s. If politics is your thing, you would know about the crippling insurgency that has racked the state for decades, and about its Iron Lady, Irom Sharmila, who ended an almost 16-year fast against human rights violations in her home state yesterday, only so that she could continue the good fight on a different stage.
But if sports is what really gets you going, there is no doubt you already reserve a special pedestal for the eastern state in your heart. And not just because of its best-known flag-bearer, five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion, ‘Magnificent’ Mary Kom. For there have been other greats – Commonwealth gold-winning weightlifter Kunjarani Devi, for instance, or boxer Laishram Sarita Devi, who won gold at the 2006 World Championships.
These haven’t been mere flashes in the pan, either. Manipur continues to produce world-class sportspeople in numbers that are completely disproportionate to its size and population. No less than six of them are wearing India’s colours in Rio – Chinglensana Konsham Singh and Kothajit Singh Khadangbam will attempt to bring a medal home in men’s hockey, just like Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam (captain) and Anuradha Devi Thokchom will in the women’s game; Saikhom Mirabai Chanu will give her all in the 48-kilo category in women’s weightlifting, and archer Bombayla Devi Laishram will be shooting to win.
Of these, Bombayla Devi, who leaned in with some great scores to give the Indian women’s archery team the seventh place overall two days ago, will begin her individual campaign today, at 6:09 pm IST, shooting off against Austria’s Laurence Bauldaff. In the ranking rounds, Bombayla Devi finished at 24th place, way ahead of Baldauff’s 41st, but competitive sport is a rum thing, and comes with no guarantees.
So we will wait, and watch, and cheer, and hope for the best. And whatever the outcome, we will applaud.
Because we are fans, and that’s what fans do.
(About the author: History buff, computer engineer and writer, Roopa Pai has lived, worked, and travelled in three continents, writing for some of India’s best known publications. She has written over 20 books, which include the 8-part fantasy-adventure series Taranauts for kids, bestseller The Gita for Children and a biography of Chanakya—The Master Statesman for adults. She also has an alternate career as a tour guide with BangaloreWalks, a heritage walks and tours company.)