M.C. Mary Kom’s autobiography ‘Unbreakable’ makes a great read. For women, however, it should act as an eye-opener. For, on how many occasions do we hear from working women so many excuses as to why they are not able to forge ahead in their careers! In fact, innumerable women keep insisting that their jobs do not get converted into systematic careers because they are women and they are shackled in their familial tasks and responsibilities. Reading Mary Kom’s autobiography, one gets an impression that most women are only excuse-seekers rather than path-finders.
How many difficulties did Mary have to cope with! Extreme poverty. Extreme physical labour to stay afloat. Extreme weather conditions. Extremely adverse geographical locale. Extremely hostile social situation. Twin sons, and then a third one. Work at home as a housewife, and a flourishing career in boxing at international level.
However, for the gritty woman with an extremely determined face and eyes shining with anticipation of success following hard work, none of these difficulties was daunting enough. Mary Kom knew right from the beginning that she was the master of herself and centre of her life and it is she who would have to fight hard to succeed. And one of the biggest motivations for her was not to be forced into returning to her native village in the hilly Manipur state where she had started working as a labourer when she was very young.
The message from the book is straight and simple: Life could never offer her a red carpet and that she would have to lay a red carpet for herself through sheer grit and grinding work. So, instead of accepting that her conditions were not favourable, she decided to convert the difficulties into stepping stones to success.
Just imagine if Mary Kom had sought excuses like countless women do all the time! We would never had an internationally acclaimed woman boxer. And then add to her difficulties as an Indian woman trying to make it big in the world of male-dominated Indian boxing.
Yet, Mary Kom did not allow any comfort of excuse-seeking to shun hard work. Nothing mattered for her. What mattered most was success in the chosen field — no excuses, no false escapes. Comfort zones are for others, not for Mary Kom. That’s it.
Why don’t average Indian women treat life as a good challenge that could spur progress rather than spit them down?
This is the question we should ask of ourselves all the time. Not just women, but also Indian men. For, on most occasions when women are seen seeking excuses, men are the de-motivators, as experience shows. They build walls of difficulties around their women so that the ladies just lose their mental resolve to put up stiff fight to succeed.
As a counsellor, I come across scores and scores of women who have a major complaint against the men-folk in their families — husbands, fathers, brothers, even sons. All these men do not want to make even the smallest of adjustments if the woman of the house is seeking a career as part of her effort of self-actualisation. So, they build circles of difficulties around the woman and make her feel guilty for pushing the family into difficulties of having to make do without her for a while when she is away at work seeking fulfilment as well as economic independence.
Work-life balance is really a critical issue. It is necessary for all to be able to achieve a good work-life balance. Yet, when it is a woman involved in the issue, then ‘life’ assumes a menacing proportion than in the case of a man involved in it. For a man, work is more important, and for a woman, it is life.
That is a very lopsided concept of living, and women should fight back to gain a control of their lives to a reasonable extent. And in that effort of theirs, the story of Mary Kom should act as a guiding light.