"What is the valour of the Belle Beleaguered if she cannot endure suffering?"
- Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, Aborodh Basini : 2
A carpet canopy is spread over the platform,
Sisters, sit still under it without a word.
What if you get kicked for half a day,
did you think saving your honour was easy?
Hashmat Begums live here in the
carriage like this the whole day, unfed
and hungry from dusk to dawn, smothering
the cries of the baby or chaos will follow.
Instead of people the platform will have
moving mosquito nets: if untimely baths
trigger a fever, thirty-six guards will fetch
the medicine-man, and then will pass their time
chewing beetle-leaves and tobacco unperturbed.
The healer will wiggle his toes in the out-house
and stretch; the entire Palanquin with everyone
inside will dip in the Ganges for a ritual bath.
Translated by Vishakha Devratnam from the poet's upcoming verse collection
"Aaj Tobe Upanibesher Kotha Boli (On Colonies)".