The year was 1555. Portuguese colonial power was at its peak in the 1500’s. They destroyed Zamorins of Calicut. Defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. Took away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat, Established a colony in Mylapore, Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it, pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church over it.
Their next target, the super profitable port of Mangalore.
Their only bad luck, just 14 kilometres south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal – ruled then by a feisty 30 year old woman – RANI ABBAKKA CHOWTA
Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her back to Goa – Those boats never came back.
Shocked and enraged, they sent a huge fleet of ships this time, under the command of much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira – The admiral soon returned, badly injured and empty handed.
Thereafter, another Portuguese fleet was sent – only a few injured from the crew managed to make it back.
Then the Portuguese went on to capture the Mangalore port and the fort anyways, perhaps planning to tackle Rani Abbakka Chowta from the convenient distance of the Mangalore fort.
After the successful capture of Mangalore, a huge army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal.
The brief was simple: Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.
The plan was foolproof- there was no way a 30 year old lady with a few men could withstand the might of an army of thousands with advanced weapons.
The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it deserted. Abbakka was nowhere in sight.
They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars – Just when they were about to call it a victory – Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen men – there was chaos all around and many portuguese lost their lives even without a fight.
General João Peixoto was assassinated, 70 Portuguese were captured and the rest just ran away.
So if you’re Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large army of aggressors, killed a general, captured fighters and defended her city – What will you do?
- Rest and enjoy the moment right?
Rani Abbakka Chowta, rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night, and laid a siege of the Mangalore fort – She not just broke inside the fort successfully – but assassinated Admiral Mascarenhas the Chief of the Portuguese power there and forced the remaining Portuguese to vacate the fort.
She didn’t just stop at this but went on to even capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 kms, north of Mangalore – Just to make a point.
Each of us women folks get to define what success means to us. Each of us women folks get to define what it means to rise above the challenges forced upon us , whether it means to move up to a more lucrative role, getting recognition , a seat at the table or help other women to rise. The bottom line is that the definition of success is personal and tailor made for you, but the question is how will you track the nuances or behavioral tendencies that may sideline your own growth?
Your signature behavior may have brought you where you are today, but how will you break your own record and move up the ladder ? What is your plan to rise above the office politics – sexist bosses , men who have difficulty to work with women or take women’s ideas , the old performance review criteria favouring men ?
It is important to identify challenges that make you get stuck, and develop flexibility in the behavior and not stop moving towards the goal. When confronted with challenges whether you rub your hands and say, ” I love challenges” or sweat it out and start worrying depends on what you choose.
In times of distress we think about the role models that had a major influence on us in our lives, may Abbaka Chowta be the role model – power house of inspiration , intelligence , commitment , patriotism and strength to us.
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