Maleka Begum's latest book, Sufia Kamal, published by Prothoma, chronicles the life, times and works of Sufia Kamal. The book covers from the very beginning days of her childhood to the day of her demise. Anyone can consider it a biography of Sufia Kamal. But as a reviewer, I would not consider it a mere biography because I believe certain things of the book will make readers think it is more than a mere biographical description. De facto, this literary piece has a story-like quality which will take the readers to a world where a woman faces mountain-like obstructions to reach her goal. Telling the tales of Sufia Kamal's life, Maleka Begum endeavours to unveil those chapters of the poet's life which a nation must not forget. Alongside, the author has tried to bring into focus the role Sufia Kamal played during the substantial mass movements.
At the outset, Maleka Begum opens up an opportunity for the readers to know about the childhood days of Sufia Kamal. She was brought up in an educated and prosperous family. But it is a matter of regret that she could not even attend school due to the prejudiced notions of the then male dominated society. Although she, quite happily, started to pass her childhood days, her early marriage did not give her the scope to enjoy the entire period of childhood. She was married off at 12.
The book informs just after her matrimony, Sufia Kamal engaged herself in multifarious social works. At the age of fourteen, she, for the first time, got involved in women's movement in 1929. Indeed, her real life experiences helped her realize the importance of women's education. Which is why, she would always encourage the guardians to send their girl children to school.
In this volume, the author also focuses on Sufia Kamal's love for art, culture and literature. Though Sufia Kamal was deprived of institutional education, her inquisition to know the outside world was not stopped. She prepared herself as a self-educated woman who came out from the cocoon of traditional and superstitious society. At the very beginning of her teenage, Sufia had come across almost all the substantial works of Kazi Nazrul Islam. She was also introduced to Rabindranath Tagore's works that time. Sufia Kamal's vast reading helped her a lot to be a writer. Apart from reading, she would send her stories and poems to different newspapers and magazines. This way she got familiarity in the then literary arena.
Besides, Maleka Begum sheds light on the melancholic days of Sufia Kamal. When the poet was going ahead step by step with the active support of her husband, a sudden disaster turned her life to an uneasy direction. Her husband suddenly died on 9 December, 1932. In this regard, Maleka Begum, much relevantly, mentions that Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, who gravely influenced Sufia Kamal's thoughts through her revolutionary notions, died just ten days before the demise of Sufia Kamal's husband. Perhaps, the sudden demise of these two influential figures dampened Sufia Kamal's spirit to a large extent. However, her mother helped her overcome the shock. Afterwards, she stepped into a new world of Kolkata where she had to struggle a lot to lead life in her own way.
This phase of the review discusses the way Maleka Begum brings into focus the role Sufia Kamal played during different mass movements. She has deciphered how Sufia Kamal became a unique figure in the society during the times of crisis, how she led the nation staying at the forefront of various protests of mass people, how she played the role of a guardian to the people of the then East-Pakistan during the language movement in 1952 and how she helped and inspired the freedom fighters during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. In a word, Sufia Kamal showed her utmost bravery during times of crisis.
Last but not least, Maleka Begum's book helps us recollect the struggles and achievements of Sufia Kamal. It purveys us the information that Sufia Kamal hugely reinforced the women's movement in Bangladesh. Her brainchild, Begum Patrika undoubtedly represents her thoughts for the progress of women. The book, overall, embellishes us with the synopsis that Sufia Kamal was a self-enlightened woman who, throughout her life, relentlessly worked to spread the sparks of enlightenment all around.
The reviewer is a critic and translator. He teaches English at Central Women's University. He can be reached at email@example.com