Sultana’s Dream by Begum Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain could well be every South Asian woman’s dream come true! This wonderful feminist fable, written in 1905, much before the word feminism itself made its appearance in India is a book that needs to be gifted to every woman and indeed man whom we love and care for. It points to the possibility of a world without war and violence, fear and insecurity, envy and competition. It creates a beautiful world, full of exotic gardens and flowers, a world congenial to learning and sharing. Sultana’s Dream invokes a world that is in sync with nature, not a rapacious world, but a gentle world that seeks to harness the sun and the clouds to sustain life on earth. Published, as the blurb tells us, a decade before the American feminist fable Herland by Charlotte P. Gilman, it employs a strategy that is often employed by philosophers—that of abstraction. Hossain invites us to imagine a world without men…a world where women can walk on the streets with freedom, not be stared at, not be groped or ridiculed, a world where women would be at peace to pursue and learn new things.
August 2014, volume 38, No 8