Where is your Onakke?

Jyoti Shekar

jsWe hear about so many inspiring women today – a female minister fighting the odds, a female President with a newborn baby, a sportswoman fighting for her right to wear what she wants, an actress fighting accusations because of the role she portrayed etc.

We see all this happening around us and, we say ‘Ah! This makes me angry’. And then we go back to our own life thinking it is their fight, not ours.

But what if it is ours?

Immediately, we would think of various reasons to step back – I am not an actress, I don’t have political influence, I am not qualified enough or powerful enough, how can I possibly fight the system?

That’s the mistake we make. We do not realise that we are powerful enough to bring a change, at least in our lives, in our circle.

And what is the advantage we have today?

It is the feminist era. You stand up for yourself, and a thousand women will stand up with you.

I wish we had been taught more about 18th and 19th century heroines, if not earlier ones. Our history books taught amply about kings, wars and a couple of the queens. But there were so many other women who made a mark in history, without caring for their gender or what other people would say or think.

One name I recently heard about is Obavva from Karnataka. Before I start the story, let me tell you, Obavva was neither a queen nor a warrior. She was a simple woman.

Back in the 18th century, Chitradurga Fort was ruled by MadakariNayaka IV. Hyder Ali, at that time, was on a conquering mission and was looking for ways to attack the fort. He tried everything possible but to no avail. Then he found a small opening in one of the walls, barely large enough to fit a grown man. This hole was manned by a guard, Kalanayak, who, Hyder Ali found out, was in the habit of going home in the afternoons. Once when he was not at the hole, Hyder Ali ordered his men to penetrate the fort through the hole one by one, till enough men assembled inside to declare an attack.

nmdsckjThat is when Obavva, who was Kalanayak’s wife, came out for some water near that hole and saw one soldier trying to enter. She quickly got hold of a long wooden pestle (used for pounding paddy in the fields) and using it as a weapon, hit the entering soldier fatally on his head. This pestle is known as ‘Onakke’ in Kannada and hence she came to be known as Onakke Obavva.

The soldier died instantly and she dragged the body to one side. She kept doing this to every incoming soldier. The other soldiers had no idea of what fate lay ahead of them. By the time, Kalanayak came out, Obavva had killed dozens of soldiers single-handedly with just a pestle as her weapon!

Needless to say, an attack was avoided that day and the fort was saved single-handedly by Obavva. Obavva, it is said, died the same day, possibly from the shock of seeing so many bodies. Anyway, she was the saviour that day.

hjdsncOf course, sometime later, Hyder Ali, managed to conquer the fort. But from this inspirational story, the following points emerge:

  • If Obavva had thought of herself as an ordinary, helpless woman, who needs a man to save her, she probably would have ran to get her husband and in the meantime the attacking army would have succeeded.
  • If Obavva had felt inferior just because she was not a queen or a warrior, she would never have had the courage to do what she did.
  • If Obavva had worried about what would happen later to her, she may have lived longer, but would not have become an ageless name in history.
  • If Obavva had thought that she is inadequately equipped with just one long stick, again, she would not have been able to do what she did.

My takeaway from the above is simply that if Obavva, brought up in 18th century patriarchy, without qualifications, not used to dangers and not to mention, without resources, could achieve something so drastic, we are brought up in the 21st century, with women shouting slogans of liberation and feminism all over; we can definitely stand up on our feet, feel confident about ourselves, and do what we want to do with our lives, without having to kill someone for it!

Jokes apart, these are the role models we need. If they could do it then, we can do it now. Women, when they put their minds to it, are way more capable, strong and successful. We usually tend to think that it is all very well for well qualified and financially independent women to talk about feminism, but ordinary women, you and me, can never dream of being our own persons.

But guess what? We are.

We already are our best versions. If we can fight like cats for our husbands, if we become tigresses for our kids, then we can definitely do something for our own happiness.

I leave you with one last thought. Do something for yourself today. Because unless you are genuinely, internally happy, it will be impossible for you to make other people happy.

Be your own Obavva and find your Onakke. Fight all those internal demons of fear, inferiority and low self-esteem like she did and win the battle for yourself.



*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*

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