Sultana’s Dream by Tara Books & Durga Bai
I have been reading and writing about Tara Books and I am amazed at how they marry the world of literature and arts in their books. The story of many of their artists’ journeys is awe-inspiring. In October this year, I got an opportunity to visit their office cum bookshop and meet the people behind this lovely concept. I picked up a few books for the kids in my family. Later Tara Books sent me Sultana’s Dream for review. I could not have been happier.
This is a small book – a story of a dream of a parda-nasheen woman. A woman who remains behind the veil (typical of women from Islamic communities that I assume author belongs to). She used to be confined to Zenana or the area that is marked for women inside a palace or a large house. She dreams of a reverse situation when the men would stay in a place like Zenana. And women would be free to roam around and do anything they liked to do. She obviously sees that all women would live in harmony. The whole of country or city would look like a garden and women would be able to invent things that would not harm the environment at all. She adds a back-story of the queen and how she brought her kingdom to this state of affairs.
As a woman, it is a beautiful dream. But I am not sure if I look forward to a – world without men or where men cannot be seen. Nonetheless, I definitely look forward to a more equitable world where everyone has equal opportunities. Irrespective of their gender, religion, caste, age or economic strata. Nonetheless, this kind of a dream can give Men a perspective of what the reversal can potentially lead to.
Moreover, this book is unique because of the illustrations by Durga Bai – a renowned Gond artist. Through her pen stroke like drawings – she provides a unique vision to Sultana’s dream. All illustrations use primarily black ink for the dashed lines and couple of shades of blue to depict the scenes of the dream. You need to spend as much time, if not more on the illustrations as on reading the story.
A small booklet that you can probably read in 15 minutes. But look at the illustrations and you can spend a lot of time there. And we can only imagine how much time Durga Bai would have spent making them.