|Editorial - Part
now as I promised, back to the story of Sultana’s Dream. Why did we
decide on this particular title?
More than a hundred years ago
in what was then an undivided India, a tiny veiled Bengali woman wrote a
fifteen-page novella called Sultana’s Dream. Her name was Begum Rokeya
Hossain, an early self-conscious feminist. Rokeya was fortunate to have a
brother who taught his sister how to read and write after he returned home from
school each day.
later, as an adult woman, she created her own utopian vision when she wrote her
satire, Sultana’s Dream in 1905. Sultana’s Dream takes place
in the country of Ladyland where women run the country: women are the
politicians, the scientists, the soldiers and the traders. Their men languish
inside the zenana—the harem if you will—in purdah. How this turn of events
came about makes interesting reading and, when Rokeya’s husband first read his wife’s book he exclaimed,
‘Ah, a splendid revenge!’ Begum Rokeya was fortunate to have married a
progressive man who encouraged his wife to further her education--theirs was a
same tiny woman established a school for Muslim girls for, at the time, no
formal education existed for girls; each day Rokeya’s students travelled by
carriage to school. According to unwritten customary laws their transport was
also ‘veiled’ as the young women were travelling outside their homes. So
behind the heavily curtained windows of the wagon sat heavily veiled, heavily
perspiring young girls in the stifling heat. While Rokeya did not believe in the
veil, she was prepared to compromise if this was the only way for her girls to
receive an education.
night Begum Rokeya sat with pen and paper writing the first feminist utopian
dream ten years before Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) published
her famous work Herland in 1915.
reinvented herself. From an illiterate young girl she turned herself into an
educationalist and a writer. Today she is a feminist icon for women in
Bangladesh. Some of our readers may decide to ‘adopt’ the fictional
character, Sultana, who sits in the sun daydreaming and wakens to find herself
we issue a caveat: the book, Sultana’s Dream, was never meant to lull
its female readers into a trance; on the contrary, it was supposed to break
women out of a trance, by using satire to provide a vision of a different
world. Rokeya meant it as a catalyst to start women thinking and talking to each
other. And through your support, that’s just what we want to achieve.