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Calcutta hails Mary Kom

Calcutta, Sept. 6: “Namashkar, ami Kolkata bhalobashi.” With these words, Olympic medallist M.C. Mary Kom took the mike during a series of felicitations in Calcutta today.

The pugilist, who claims to be in love with the city, has come here after a long time — “two or three years,” and was warmly received at the Indian Chambers of Commerce auditorium.

The champion, who apologised for not clinching the gold medal at the London Olympics, was her usual humble self. “I thank god for being here,” she said.

And she remembered to thank everyone for having prayed for her during the Olympics.

Amid praise from Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra and Assam Cricket Association president Gautam Roy, who was here to attend Mary’s felicitation, and several others, she reminded that several other athletes of calibre in the Olympics team should not be forgotten.

“It is very difficult to become an Olympian. There were several other brilliant athletes in our group who did not get a medal. But that does not take away any credit from them. I wish them all the best for the Rio Olympics.”

And then she added the punchline: “I ask them to never give up. I am married and a mother of two boys. It is difficult. There is a lot of pressure but I never gave up. I want all of you to say that if Mary Kom can, so can I.”

After the felicitation, she spoke on the movie on her life being produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and shared her experience of walking the ramp for Shabana Azmi.

“I will be in the movie for a bit but not as an actor. I do not aspire to act. I just want to be remembered as Mary Kom the boxer.”

And walking the ramp was fun. A thing done for Shabana, a person she is very fond of.

She also said she was looking forward to open boxing academies in different cities of the country and train young boys and girls.

Bengal minister Madan Mitra was effusive in his praise of Mary. “We are proud of you,” he said.

He added that he was happy that she was being felicitated in Bengal. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee felicitated her later in the evening.

Assam minister and ACA president Gautam Roy said they had not been able to felicitate Mary in the state yet because of the ongoing turbulence there. “I have spoken to our chief minister Tarun Gogoi and he has said we will felicitate her soon with an award of Rs 20 lakh.”

The felicitation programme was also attended by a group of school students. Shurjanko Banerjee, a student of Class II in Jyotirmoy Public School, said he has watched every match of Mary Kom’s in Olympics. He was also aware of the other boxer from Manipur, L. Devendro Singh, who was in contention for a medal.

Their teacher, who had accompanied them to the programme, explained that the boxers from Manipur are now in their general knowledge syllabus.