Pabitra Rokeya Path
(The Sacred Sayings of Rokeya)
Begum Rokeya is a role model for us. She depicted the unbearable, superstition-dogged, religion-constricted life of the women of Bengal uncompromisingly. She smashed the chains forged for women in a world ruled by men and articulated the need for women's liberation.
On the occasion of her 75th birth anniversary, here are some quotes from Pabitra Rokeya Path (The Sacred Sayings of Rokeya), culled from her heart's promptings and still indispensable sources of inspiration for the women of Bengal.
1. Religion has made the bonds of slavery even tougher for women to bear; men are lording it over women in the name of religion.
2. There should be efforts made to spread education properly in rural areas. If there are Pathshalas (small school in villages) set up in all villages, and charka and teko in houses, the poverty of farmers will disappear.
3. What can our precious ornaments signify but the emblems of our slavery? And the irony is she who has more of these emblems the more respected she is in society.
4. We constitute half of the population. How will society move forward if we remain backward? How far can a man limp if one of his legs is tied? Our interest is not different from men -- it is the same. We have the same goals in life.
5. The Holy Scriptures amount to nothing other than rules and regulations written by men. They would have perhaps been different if women had created them.
6. But the question that comes to mind is how can Muslims -- people who are supposedly willing to embrace martyrdom for the sake of the Prophet (and even for an act of sacrilege against a broken brick of a mosque) -- be unwilling to practice what he preached? Whatever had happened in the dark ages can be forgotten, whatever mistakes have been made in the past can be ignored, but how are we in the twentieth century failing to attract the attention of these people to female education, something our beloved prophet has mentioned as 'Faraz' (a must do for Muslims) for men, as far as their daughters are concerned; why do they continue to be indifferent to female education?
7. Once, a house was on fire. The mistress of the house filled a box with all her jewelries and came out of the house. When she reached the door, she saw men gathering there to douse the fire. Since she did not want to come in front of them she went back and sat under her bed. As a result, she died of burn injuries. Such is the power of the purdah!
8. The happiness derived from wearing ten expensive jewelries is not even equal to one percent of the immeasurable pleasure that can be attained from reading a good book.
9. While her husband measures the distance of the sun and the stars, the wife measures the length and breadth a pillow cover in order to sew it. While her husband roams galaxies through his imagination, weighing cubic meters of the Sun's diameter and measuring the speed of a comet; the wife stays in the kitchen, weighs rice and measures the speed of the cook.
10. We cannot attain anything by merely wishing for it; one has to work hard for it. Nobody is going to come to our doorsteps with pitchers full of knowledge just because we thirst for it. The fountain does not come to the thirsty; it is the thirsty that must proceed towards the fountain.
11. Are women really idiots? Not at all; on the contrary, they have the first claim to merit. It is known to all that it was a woman who first picked up the fruit of knowledge and ate it; the man took a bite of what was left afterwards!
12. According to our religion, marriage is only complete when the bride and groom participate in it. God forbid, but if there is to be a parting of ways, shouldn't that be done too mutually? Why is it permissible then only when the husband is ready to act?
13. We have not been able to raise our heads against enslavement even after our downfall. Perhaps this is because whenever a woman has tried to raise her head, it was flattened by the weight of religious sermons.
14. Men always tell us they have kept us deep in their hearts and threaten us saying that we'll never receive as much affection from any other source in this world. That is why we melt and stream towards them! As a consequence it is there affection that must be seen as harming us. They are confining us within their hearts and depriving us from sunlight and fresh air, and we are being smothered by their love!
15. Do not confine me in a golden cage. Let me fly to the far away azure sky.
Compiled by Baby Moudud
(R) thedailystar.net 2006