Q. You were among the top performers at the 2014 Asian Games. How tough was it for you to finally achieve this distinction and to finally have your dreams come true? And what kept you inspired through times of struggle?
A. Well, my dream is not fulfilled yet. I want to give a gold medal to my country. I am pushing myself hard to fulfil my dreams. It’s not about my inspirations. What drives me from within is my aspiration to achieve my goals. It’s my belief that one should never give up: you should keep trying until you get what you want in life. I don’t know whether I’ll get what I want or not, but I keep myself motivated and I know that I am still young enough to be able to achieve what I want.
Q. Our athletes clearly have the potential to win more at international games, but every year we come back only with a handful of medals. How do you think Indian athletes can improve their prospects of winning abroad?
A. I cannot say that, because every discipline or every game is very difficult and it is very hard to win a medal. I mean, every athlete is trying their best to grab a medal. Who doesn’t want a medal individually for their nation? Asian Games and Olympics are two of the biggest sporting forms in the world and each athlete participating in these are trying hard to perform their level best. And it is very unfortunate if someone fails to win. Still, we have done well in gymnastics, wrestling and badminton in the recent Olympic Games. The girls have really done well. Earlier, it was very hard for a girl to perform at this level, but now the scenario has changed and girls these days are winning medals. In gymnastics also, due to a few points, we did not get a medal. But it was a remarkable feat, because in India, gymnastics is seen as totally different from other sports, and nobody would have expected what Dipa Karmakar achieved. It is great to see that our girls have given a remarkable performance. So hopefully, we will see more medals in the upcoming games — that is, if we have better infrastructure and facilities for sportspersons.
Q. So you would agree that in India, adequate sporting infrastructure and facilities for athletes are lacking?
A. We have the facilities, but very few centres can qualify in this regard. We want every corner of the country to have the required facilities so that the next generation can get trained in a better way. It depends on our sporting infrastructure also. We have talent in this country, and if only we have the facilities to match that, then we can certainly perform better. Sometimes I feel the reason we fail to win medals might have to do with a lack of quality sporting infrastructure. So, we are praying that this would change in the near future.
Q. The Northeast is known for its sporting prowess. But do you think the region is getting enough resources and funds from our sports authorities, compared to what other states and cities get?
A. I will say that in the Northeast, this is an inborn quality. The sporting culture here is a gift from God. But since the last 4-5 years, India has shown love for all kinds of sports. Earlier, people were very choosy about what to watch. But this has changed now. And now people are mostly aware of various forms of sports, and even corporate companies and governments are willing to support us. The Sports Authority of India and the National Sports Development Fund are providing funds and sponsoring athletes so that they perform better. There is a lot more support now. Even parents don’t mind motivating their children to go into sports. Manipur and other Northeast states have no dearth of talent. In terms of resources, we now have somewhere around 60-70% resources in this field, but in order to win medals, we need 100% support. If the government plans to give full facilities and infrastructure, we will definitely get more medals in the next Olympic Games.
Q. Where do you see Indian boxing headed over the next few years? Do you see it emerging as a mainstream sport?
A. Boxing has already emerged in recent years. Earlier, there was no federation or official body to train aspiring boxers. So many youngsters starting out in this field did not know what to really do and what not to do during a fight. But I believe that with the new federation in place, boxing will take the forefront.
“We want every corner of the country to have the required facilities so that the next generation can get trained in a better way. It depends on our sporting infrastructure also. We have talent in this country, and if only we have the facilities to match that, then we can certainly perform better.”
Q. Would you like to someday take up the responsibility of training young women boxers?
A. Right now, I am a Rajya Sabha member, and whatever aspiring women boxers need and require, I am ready to help and provide them with that. I will definitely try to look after all their needs.
Q. You recently wrote an open letter to your sons about sexual abuse. What made you write about this subject?
A. I wrote what I wanted to write. I always teach my students, and especially my sons, to respect women. Every family has a woman in it, and each one of us should learn to respect them. This letter was not only for my sons — it was for everyone. I don’t think that only daughters ought to be taught moral values. We all have different cultures and traditions coexisting in society. One should not forget one’s tradition, but there is nothing wrong in adapting to new values. So, I think boys too should learn how to behave in the society. Our society is developing. So in the same sense, our minds should also develop. We have to learn many new things. We should also learn from other countries things they are good at.
Q. What do you have to say about the general increase in instances of crime against women in our country? How can women fight against this trend?
A. Every woman is fighting against this. I am fighting against this. The crime rates are increasing day by day. I thought of writing and speaking about this issue, too, because this happens with every girl in our society. Every other girl is molested in some way or the other. Some choose to speak out, while others remain quiet on such sensitive issues. I personally am lucky that I learnt boxing, because it is not only a sport but also a form of self-defence.
Q. Your biopic, Mary Kom, came out in 2014. Everyone knows a little bit about your struggle and journey now. How did you respond to that film?
A. Whatever has been shown in the film about my hardships and struggle is all true. But I can only say that whatever struggle you saw in the film is only 10% of all my real struggles. I struggled much more than is shown there. That’s all.
Q. How’s your preparation for the next Olympic Games coming along?
A. I have started preparing for the upcoming Games. I don’t know whether I will win or not, but my hunger will continue till I win a gold medal for my country.