February 2, 2008

Begum Rokeya: Sultana’s Dream-3

“But my dear sister Sara, if we do everything by ourselves, what will the men do then?”

“They should not do anything, excuse me; they are fit for nothing. Only catch them and put them into the zenana.”

“But would it be very easy to catch and put them inside the four walls?” said I, “And even if this were done, would all their business, political and commercial- also go with them into the zenana!”

Sister Sara made no reply. She only smiled sweetly. Perhaps she thought it useless to argue with one who was no better than a frog in a well.

By this time we reached sister Sara’s house. It was situated in a beautiful heart-shaped garden. It was a bungalow with a corrugated iron roof. It was cooler and nicer than any of our rich buildings. I cannot describe how neat and how nicely furnished and how tastefully decorated it was.

We sat side by side. She brought out of the parlour a piece of embroidery work and began putting on a fresh design.

“Do you know knitting and needle work?”

“Yes, we have nothing else to do in our zenana.”

“But we do not trust our zenana members with embroidery!” she said laughing, “as a man has not patience enough to pass thread through a needlehole even!”

“Have you done all this work yourself?” I asked her pointing to the various pieces of embroidered teapoy cloths.


“How can you find time to do all these? You have to do the office work as well? Have you not?”

“Yes. I do not stick to the laboratory all day long. I finish my work in two hours.”

“In two hours! How do you manage? In our land the officers, magistrates- for instance, work seven hours daily.”

“ I have seen some of them doing their work. Do you think they work all the seven hours?”

“Certainly they do!”

“No, dear Sultana, they do not. They dawdle away their time in smoking. Some smoke two or three choroots during the office time. They talk much about their work, but do little. Suppose one choroot takes half an hour to burn off, and a man smokes twelve choroots daily; then you see, he wastes six hours every day in sheer smoking.”

We talked on various subjects; and I learned that they were not subject to any kind of epidemic disease, - nor did they suffer from mosquito-bites as we do. I was very much astonished to hear that in Lady-land no one died in youth except by rare accident .

“Will you care to see our kitchen?” She asked me.

“With pleasure, “ said I, and we went to see it. Of course the men had been asked to clear off when I was going there. The kitchen was situated in a beautiful vegetable garden. Every creeper, every tomato plant was itself and ornament. I found no smoke, nor any chimney either in the kitchen, - it was clean and bright; the windows were decorated with flower garlands. There was no sign of coal or fire.

“How do you cook?” I asked.

“with solar heat”, She said, at the same time showing me the pipe, through which passed the concentrated sunlight and heat. And she cooked something then and there to show me the process.

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