by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was born into a Bengali Muslim upper-class family in the small village of Pairaband in the district of Rangpur, north of present day Bangladesh, then a part of the colonial British province of Bengal Presidency. Her date of birth is not known. However, a nephew of hers posits Dec. 9, 1880.
The Secluded Ones, has humorous essays that expose some ridiculous consequences of the practice of Purdah.
The following incident happened about twenty-two years ago. An aunt, twice removed of my husband, was going to Patna from Bhagalpor; she was accompanied by her maid only. At Kiul railway junction, they had to change trains. While boarding the train, my aunt-in-law stumbled against her voluminous burqa and fell on the railway track. Except her maid, there was no woman at the station. The railway porters rushed to help her up but the maid immediately stopped them by imploring in God’s name not to touch her mistress. She tried to drag her mistress up by herself but was unable to do so. The train waited for only half an hour but no more.
The Begum’s body was smashed – her burqa torn. A whole stationful of men witnessed this horrible accident – yet none of them was permitted to assist her. Finally her mangled body was taken to a luggage shed. Her maid waited piteously. After eleven hours of unspeakable agony she died. What a gruesome way to die!