Book Review: 'Unbreakable' by Mary Kom
As a tribal woman from a minority community competing in a quintessentially male-dominated sport, MC Mary Kom ticks several boxes as an underdog. It is an image she acknowledges, and one that is reinforced throughout her charming, very matter-of-factly written autobiography, Unbreakable.
“The reason I decided to pen my story down was to ensure others could read it and feel that if I could achieve what I have, so can they,” she explained at the book release. Most pleasantly unusual of all, Mary Kom is an Indian athlete who has excelled in an internationally popular sport for several years.
To come through the Indian sports system involves skill on two fronts – athletic and political – and Mary Kom has balanced both, expertly keeping her head down and ploughing away, both literally and metaphorically. But you don’t need to know or care about boxing to enjoy Unbreakable. The subject’s life is the point of interest throughout, and ghostwriter Dina Serto navigates this territory well, if a little too cautiously.
At first hesitant about her boxing dreams (“Who will marry you if your face gets injured?”), Mary Kom’s father eventually relented and backed her to the hilt. Indeed, when she finally did decided to get married, he father was furious at her lack of ‘focus’ and refused to even meet the prospective groom. The book traces her modest upbringing in a Manipuri village, her decision to take up boxing in the face of societal norms, and her steady, determined rise to stardom, punctuated by a tragic brush with insurgency that was followed immediately by her conceiving twins.
Perhaps Unbreakable’s sole criticism is that it delves too deeply into the human interest aspect, while skimming over some of her early achievements. Her first international medal is mentioned almost in passing, and the enormity of the occasion – and others subsequently – could perhaps have been communicated better. Nevertheless, Unbreakable is on the whole that rare kind of book – a truly worthy sports autobiography. It fuels hope that her biopic, due to be released in October with Priyanka Chopra playing the boxer, will do her story justice as well.