Begum Rokeya with her sisters and one daughter. Her family always supported her and her work with SUS. Photo: Private
The time when women were seed-keepers
|I hold many joyful childhood memories from visiting my grandparents in Kowrat village, even if I they were only short visits during the winter and summer vacations. I still carry in my heart the extraordinary feeling of going to my grandparents twice a year, riding upon the ox cart – or as we called i – the bullock cart. I can remember how travellers on their way home sat on bullock carts riding along the brick-lain road close to forests and villages surrounded by bamboo thicket.|
|Every time I see a forest during the summer season I am reminded how the villagers entertained these travellers with a happy mind and how they offered them fresh water, the paan bread and skimmed milk. The moments of mirroring myself in the clear water of the Mogra and Shaidhuli rivers still glitter in my memory. And those days when we went running and playing with our maternal and paternal cousins in the vast rice fields that extended far into the horizon.
I remember the abundance of nature, how many different types of fruit trees grew beside the roads. There, children played freely and ate the fruit as it came into season. The land was common land. People saw things differently then. Even when my cousins and I, roaming through villages and passing through the front yard of the bamboo houses where lots of vegetables were growing, if we took some small cucumbers, beans, green chili, or boroi, nobody scolded us Even when we asked to have a little salt to eat on the spot, no-one got angry with us. How sweet this natural hospitality was at that time!
Back then, women were the seed-keepers for all kinds of seeds. There were several hundred types of rice seeds which were adapted for all kinds of soils and climates. Women were the real owners of the seed, giving their utmost labour to preserve and keep the seeds for every season. There were fewer varieties of vegetables and fruit seeds compared with today. There was no wheat cultivation in our area. I never saw the use of any chemical or fertilizer other than cow dung. It was an area of food surplus. The seasonal flood fertilized naturally, bringing silt into the submerged fields during the rainy season.
Of course there was poverty also then, but no-one seemed to mind too much, the demands of people were very limited and fulfilled. The world was small. Communication was limited. Few people could read and write. Listening to the radio had not yet started. News was spread orally from mouth to mouth. That was then.
These historical snapshots commemorate 30 years of SUS