STORIES FROM BANGLADESH-1: ROKEYA BEGUM’S MARRIAGE
(True story, fake names)
Rokeya Begum was considered to be the most beautiful girl of our village in the early 1940’s. Her skin was fair. She was also the Muslim girl with the highest education in the entire Kasipur Union: she had completed grade four! A rich and very influential family of another village of our union had a marriageable son named Atif. Atif’s parents wanted their son to marry Rokeya. The boy’s party brought a proposal to Rokeya’s family for her marriage to Atif. The meeting did not go well. Actually Rokeya’s uncle said something that was insulting to Atif’s father. The boy’s party left with a threat to take Rokeya away by force. They also declared the date on which they would come to kidnap Rokeya.
It was a dark night. The people of our village came to know that 100 to 150 people would be coming to invade the village. All the men of our village, young and old, prepared themselves to face the enemies. They armed themselves with lances, knives, long and hard sticks, and whatever else they could lay their hands on. Their plan was to defend the narrow wooden bridge over the canal that the boy’s party had to cross in order to enter the village. I saw some women weeping. They were afraid that many of their men could be killed that night. As a boy of ten, I was trembling in fear of an impending massacre.
The men of our village gathered at the muddy road and rice fields on our side of the bridge. The enemies came to the other side of the bridge in a large number. They saw that the bridge was very well defended by our people. Hence they decided not to engage themselves in a battle with our people. They all retreated and returned to their homes with a sense of humiliation. All of us—men, women, and children—heaved a sigh of relief. We thanked Allah that no blood was shed that night.
Rokeya Begum was later married to her first cousin who at his time had the highest education among Muslims of our area. He had completed grade 12 at B. M. College, Barisal. He later became the chief of Fire Brigade of East Pakistan.
Saiful Islam Shakil, Shibly Sadeque and 13 others