Sultana’s Dream was originally published in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine, Madras, 1905, in English. here is a drm free link
Considering the time and place it was written, this short is a bad-ass satire on traditional stereotypes and status quo of woman in Colonial India. In Begum’s vision of a feminist utopia – Ladyland, roles are gender reversed, where females lead the future with technology while men are secluded away.
Where are the men?’ I asked her.
‘In their proper places, where they ought to be.’
‘Pray let me know what you mean by “their proper places”.’
‘O, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.’
‘Just as we are kept in the zenana?’
The premise and metaphors are rather impressive, for example the name Sultana by meaning is a lady Sultan, King/Emperor. She playfully bashes the prevailing old school inclusiveness of then male dominated society – ‘zenana‘s, and denigrate ‘weaker species’ logic. At one point of the story, in Ladyland, ‘zenana‘s are said to be replaced by ‘mardana‘s (mard- male in hindi/urdu), thereby making the land a crime-less eco friendly ‘Amazon’. The things that looked like science fiction in her ‘wonderland’, when observed now, were actually prophecies and solutions for 21st century- Solar Energy, Hydrogen weather balloons, Commercial Aviation and even competitive academics.
And there is a special charm in the writing, a narrative cuteness that keeps men from being offended, be it then, be it now.
We do not covet other people’s land, we do not fight for a piece of diamond though it may be a thousand-fold brighter than the Koh-i-Noor, nor do we grudge a ruler his Peacock Throne. We dive deep into the ocean of knowledge and try to find out the precious gems, which nature has kept in store for us. We enjoy nature’s gifts as much as we can.
Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, commonly known as Begum Rokeya (9 December 1880 – 9 December 1932), was a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women’s rights. Considered the pioneer feminist of Bengal, she wrote novels, poems, short stories, science fiction, satires, treatises, and essays. In her writings, she advocated that both men and women should be treated equally as rational beings, and the lack of education is the main reason of women’s lagging behind. (source:wiki)