Khatun, Masuda

Khatun, Masuda (1885-1926) one of the pioneering feminists of Bengal. Musammat Masuda Khatun came to be known as Mrs M Rahman after her marriage to Kazi Mahmudur Rahman. Unfortunately not much is known about her life. Her father, a landed aristocrat, was a legal practitioner in the Hughli court. Like other Muslim women of her time she was educated at home. At the age of 11 she was married to Mahmudur Rahman, a registrar in Calcutta who later published a posthumous volume of her collected works Chanachur (1927). A contemporary of roquiah sakhawat hossain, Masuda admired Roquiah and her work and the two corresponded frequently.

Of the many women who wrote at the time Mrs M Rahman wielded the most fiery pen. She articulated the problems of patriarchy and the remedies for these in uncompromising fashion. Her writings brim with wit, self-irony and a ruthless criticism of the conservative segment of the Muslim population. But the progressives admired her deeply. The rebel poet kazi nazrul islam was very attached to her, and praised her work and commitment. He addressed her as 'mother' and considered her a source of inspiration. The poet dedicated his Bisher Banshi to this remarkable woman. Mrs M Rahman regularly wrote a feature for Nazrul's literary journal, Dhumketu.

Mrs M Rahman's features dwelt on issues concerning women and a remarkable aspect of her formulation was the advocacy of women's waged work. She was committed to Hindu-Muslim unity and a firm secularist. She moved about freely in the Calcutta of the 1920s without a borka (veil) frequenting cinema halls and attending kirtan sessions. She also organised a centre for rehabilitating prostitutes.

The untimely death of Mrs M Rahman was deeply lamented by those who were struggling for women's emancipation at the time. Grief-stricken Nazrul Islam, in the dedication of his book, gave her the epithet of Agni Nagini (Fire Serpent). [Sonia Amin]