“My Girlhood: An Autobiography“ written in Bengali by Taslima Nasrin, evoked a wild reaction and the writer had to flee from the country. This autobiography offers forbidden glimpses of the veiled life of the Muslim women. The autobiography, translated into English by Gopa Mujumdar, begins at a time when war is about to break between East and West Pakistan and people begin to leave cities and go to villages. In her village city bred little Nasrin finds that girls are not allowed to visit a shop, fly kites, climb trees, go fishing or even play hop-scotch. Nasrin’s father, Baba, studies medicine in the daytime and practices at a pharmacy in the evening. He has no time for Nasrin’s mother. Nasrin is sent to school, where she draws human figures that are forbidden by her religion. Once, when her mother had secretly gone to see a cinema, her uncle Sharaf, takes her to a lonely room, pulls down her frilly shorts and shows her what ‘bonking’ is. “Even your parents and mine do it,” he explains and asks her not to tell this to anyone. On the street she frequently sees a tall, shy boy Mintu. He gets killed while leading a protest march. Few days later Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman visits his house. He looks like someone from Heaven. Another time another uncle, Aman Kaka, draws her close and pulling down her panties, shows the throbbing ‘snake’ hidden in his lungi.A fear of snakes and men now enters Nasrin to remain forever. Relations between Baba and mother turn sour. To stop thinking of the mundane world mother, along with Nasrin, visits Peer Amirullah, a holy man. Women surround the Peer press his arms and legs,serve him juice and meals and offer him betel-leaf. When the Peer spits red betel leaf juice, the women vie with each other to lick it. In spite of Baba forbidding it, mother continues to visit the Peer. Little Nasrin sees several inconsistencies between the preaching and the practice of religion. She finds a piece of paper with dirty words written in Arabic. Mother can’t believe that such words can be written in God’s language.Mother has become intolerant towards people of other religions. Nasrin feels it is Allah’s fault to have made them take birth there. Nasrin wonders why one must pray in Arabic language when Allah can understand her own language. She also finds the writings in the Holy Book saying that the moon has its own light and that earth always stands still in variance with what science proclaims. From the servant girl Renu, Nasrin becomes aware of the differences between the upper and the lower classes. At home, hell breaks loose when, one night, Baba is discovered in the bed of Renu’s mother. Mother introduces Nasrin to the Peer. He suggests that the girl should receive religious education. The girls in the Peer’s house are advised to fall in love with God.
Through the window they watch with glee young men changing clothes. Nasrin is afraid that the Peer would take her Mother alone in a dark room as he had taken each of the other girls. Glancing through the books brought by one of her uncles who had given up religious education and become a communist, she discovers that there is also another world of reason.Nasrin is admitted to a girls’ school, where she gets obsessed with a beautiful girl. Her brother brings home a fellow student, a girl who has no one else to stay with. She is sent away when found sitting on his bed. The brother suddenly leaves the house and secretly marries another Hindu girl who, later, is converted to Islam. Nasrin’s uncle Sharaf now begins to visit the Peer, where a girl, stroking his chest in a secluded room gives him naseehat. The girl gets pregnant and dies trying to abort. It is now famine in Bangla Desh. One day Nasrin suddenly begins to menstruate. There is a marriage proposal for her which Baba refuses. Once, when taking a stroll, a young man pinches her breast and buttocks. Nasrin feels that her body is not her own, it is a toy for other men to play freely with. Uncle, Aman Kaka, begins to regularly visit her house. Once, Nasrin sees her mother sitting on his bed.When she was seven, this man had stripped her naked; will he do the same to her mother? In the house there is a Holy Book full of termites. They are nibbling words which proclaim that a woman’s virtue is precious; that a woman cannot tell her husband that she is left unsatisfied; the husband can beat his wife for four reasons and that wife is a martyr, who does not become jealous when her husband takes another wife. Millions of termites are also nibbling Nasrin’s mind. Where can she get the strength to protest or rebel? The war over, Hindus begin to return to their houses. Suddenly Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman and his entire family are killed. “Will the country go back to being another Pakistan?” Nasrin wonders. She continues to study. Baba continues to dream that one day his daughter will be a brilliant success. Mother still goes to the Peer’s house. Aman Kaka still visits the house. And Nasrin continues to grow.