It’s Day 21 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.
Read of the Day
Today, we will read Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. You can read the short story online here.
About the Author
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain or Begum Rokeya was a Bengali feminist author, educator, and political activist from British India or present-day Bangladesh. She is the pioneer of women’s liberation in South Asia. Her most significant work includes Matichur (A String of Sweet Pearls), Sultana’s Dream, Padmarag (Essence of the Lotus), and Abarodhbasini (The Confined Women).
Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain is a futuristic sci-fi feminist story that was first published in a Madras English newspaper called The Indian Ladies Magazine in 1905.
The story is set in a utopian place called Ladyland. In this story, the author reverses the gender roles, and we see the women as the dominant gender. In Ladyland, the women call the shots, and men live a confined life akin to the traditional Muslim purdah system. The women are the modern architects, engineers, and scientists of the world, and the author depicts a far more technically advanced, efficient, and peaceful world than the one we live in reality which is ruled by men.
The story takes witty potshots at the traditional patriarchal system and highlights the need and importance of gender equality, women’s education, and agency.
Hossain emphasises how most of the world’s problems are manmade, and if women take charge, most of these problems will cease to exist. A world ruled by women would mean lesser crime and more peace and harmony. In Hossain’s utopian Ladyland, we see women on top as scientists and world leaders working collaboratively for the wellbeing of all, unlike a man’s world on earth where it’s competitive, chaotic, and destructive.
I found Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain ahead of its time, a progressive story that deals with the subjects of feminism, education, and environmentalism.
It’s 2021, and we still have a patriarchal system that forces women to drop out of their workplaces after a particular stage and where the glass ceiling still exists. We still need more women in politics to protect our rights and interests. We need more women scientists and environmentalists to take charge and help us live in a better, more equal and harmonious world.
No surprise that Sultana’s Dream is among the first stories to be written in English by women in colonial times. The story is a distinct landmark in Indian Literature in English.
What did you think of Sultana’s Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain?
* I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.