Try to imagine yourself in living in extreme seclusion, or purdah. You can’t leave your dwelling, and if you do, you will have to wear such a heavy veil that you can’t even see through it when you try to cross the street. This book is about women who call themselves frogs on the bottom of a well. Not only is the well far too deep for them to jump out, they cannot see the light, they don’t know what is happening outside. Their feelings are mixed. They struggle for more space, and yet, they see it as a privileged life. The book is about Indian Muslim women living in purdah, and what it means in the daily life and position of the wives and daughters of the custodians (pirzade) of the shrine of the Muslim Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in New Delhi.
In this book, we are made to experience purdah as a “negotiated privilege”, an expression that intends to highlight the ambiguity of a practice which is both abhorrent and attractive for women, both deprivation and privilege. In the author’s words, “the pirzada women are pulled in contradictory directions, and they have a certain interest in maintaining – rather than undermining – their status quo”. A must as a practice in understanding people who live in different ideologies and realities than yours.