"Dear Mary Kom, your magic at the Olympics will be missed"
Drawing the curtain on an impressive Olympic career, shining with a bronze, Mary Kom bid adieu to the boxing rings at the Olympics after losing to Ingrit Valencia.
There is something about lasts which are everlasting, won't you agree, Mary? I wonder how you felt when you made that walk - clad in the blue jersey, as Kokugikan Arena erupted in a flurry of resounding cheers as you strode in - the dimpled smile playing on your face, moments before you headed into the boxing ring - for a final time at the Olympics.
But you didn't know that, none of us knew it...none of us want to think of remote possibilities like that - not until it happens anyway, and we are reduced to being helpless spectators, mute, watching a glorious drama in the Olympic ring finish with a bang.
Somewhere in India, where I sat, the afternoon sun leaned its shoulders on dusk as you headed out - my eyes remained riveted to the screen - the nerves tingling with excitement as you, the legendary Mary Kom, at 38, set out to compete for a place in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics.
After India had a pleasantly promising outing on Day 6 of the Tokyo Olympics with victories collected in badminton, archery and favourable results in shooting - your match was supposed to be the 'icing on the cake' and we definitely were game for a lavish finish.
Three incredibly close rounds against 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist, Columbia's Ingrit Lorena Victoria Valencia later, where you kept punching away to glory - drawing cheers and making the heart swell with a potpourri of emotions - respect, awe, disbelief being the chief attention-seekers, I watched on stunned.
The final few minutes are perhaps the most anxious in a boxing match and likewise, today's spelled no differently as the judges declared Valencia the winner by a 3:2 'split decision' margin and while inside the ring, your face beamed and tears streamed down your face - we couldn't believe that everything could be over in the blink of an eye.
Time is hardly kind and especially in boxing, where you are in a race against it, in landing as many solid punches as possible - time jaunts and flows and we too, find ourselves hauled by it, never knowing which was the final second, the final attack, before the last knell sounds.
Mary Kom - is it time already for an Olympic curtain call?
I won't know about others but I've always been one of those late-realisers and therefore as I watched the events unfold at the Kokugikan Arena and you smilingly bow to the cheering audience - a thousand thoughts boxed their own battles inside my mind - "How does this woman, at 38 years of age, do it this well?"
So, how do you do it, Mary? How have you always managed to be the one to walk on the path less travelled, tow the vibrant state of Manipur to limelight by boxing your way to achieving sheer immortality in the ring as one of the best's in the sport, to have been just another 'ordinary' daughter afraid of mentioning to her parents about her frisky flirtations with boxing and her 'extraordinary' achievements in it, to have been the friend, the fighter, the lover and finally, the woman for all seasons. How do you do it?
At 38, Mary Kom, you were so quick and agile on your feet - perfectly alert for the punches, experience coursing through your veins and a twinkling passion burning in your eyes. While I know this isn't the last we are seeing of you and you will be back, I still get a lump in my throat thinking that perhaps that day too is near.
I don't do well with watching and realizing 'lasts' - so even though as I sit writing this, the close-call loss, as controversial it was, has still left me a little dazed. For me, you are the winner today and everyday, both inside and outside the ring, for you have fielded battles - in sport, in society, in race and gender and most importantly - in thought and won every time.
It's impossible to list down what you have done for the sport of amateur boxing and just how many times you have given India a reason to be proud - an unparalleled 8 World Championship medals along with successes at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games and of course, a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics...all this while juggling a family and four kids?
To call you a Wonder Woman here won't even be enough perhaps because Mary, you have been the brave Amazonian warrior and also the princess-in-a-shining-armour and nowhere near to being the damsel-in-distress. In this fairytale's Olympic edition, Mary, the happily-ever-after's are bittersweet as we do not want that full stop to arrive, can't it run into hopeful ellipses - ready to begin again?
I do not know what it is we did to deserve you - a legend par excellence, but thank you, MC Mary Kom, for making us dream, for being an inspiration for nearly two decades and for showing, once and for all, that a woman can also fight - thank you, Mary Kom, for rewriting the age-old fairytale with your punches - the Olympics stage will sorely miss you.
- With love and respect,
Just another fan of your legend