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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK
Dowry woman becomes textbook star

By Geeta Pandey
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Nisha Sharma
Nisha Sharma is now happily married to another man
A young bride who became the talk of India 16 months ago for calling off her wedding and getting her fiance arrested after he demanded more dowry money, has now made it on to the school curriculum.

The new English textbook for the sixth standard - age 11 to 12 - in schools run by the government of the Indian capital, Delhi, includes a chapter on Nisha Sharma.

The chapter, Man in Jail over Dowry Demand, first appeared in a newspaper in May last year.

Mrs Sharma joins the likes of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and astronaut Kalpana Chawla as prominent personalities who have chapters devoted to them in school books in India.

An official in the Delhi government's education department said it made sense to teach children about these people because they were contemporary and could be role models.

The fiance - Munish Dalal - was unimpressed and has begun legal action.

Surprised

Mrs Sharma has been in the news regularly for the past 16 months.

I didn't do anything extraordinary. It was something... I had to deal with at that time
Nisha Sharma

She became a role model for middle-class women after she called off her marriage at the 11th hour because Mr Dalal asked her parents for more dowry money.

Mrs Sharma is surprised by the inclusion of her story in the textbook.

"I had no idea that my story was going to be taught in the classroom," she says. "I learnt the news from... newspapers."

She cannot understand what all the fuss is about.

"I didn't do anything extraordinary," she says.

Schoolboys in Delhi
Children have not studied the case yet - it's in the last chapter

"It was something that happened to me and I had to deal with it at that time. They came and asked us for more money at the last minute, so I said no."

But she adds: "I feel children should be made aware of these things. With this they'll learn that they should not let a wrong pass, they have to confront it. They should come forward and fight."

Meanwhile, Mr Dalal has served a defamation notice on the State Council of Educational Research and Training, which prepared the book.

The council acknowledged it had received the notice and said its lawyers were dealing with the case.

A senior official at the council told the BBC the reason for including the story was to draw the attention of children to social problems.

Parents

At the Government Boys' Secondary School in central Delhi, the children are yet to be taught the story as it is the last chapter in the book.

But their English teacher, Asha Kashyap, has read it and thinks it is a good idea to include it in the curriculum.

Asha Kashyap, English teacher
I think dowry is a social issue and children should be made aware about this
Asha Kashyap, English teacher

"I think dowry is a social issue and children should be made aware about this," she says.

"And in this chapter, it says here that Nisha acted bravely. So it's good if children learn about her."

Mrs Kashyap says Mrs Sharma is a household name and that she acted with a lot of courage.

But Mrs Sharma says the credit should go to her parents.

"I've learnt from my father that if there's anything wrong then stand up to it and face it," she says.

"If you let it scare you, it will grow bigger and bigger. You have to move forward."

Mrs Sharma has clearly moved on. A few months after her arranged marriage with Mr Dalal was called off, she married a computer engineer.

She looks radiant in her bright red sari, unfazed by her iconic status.

Call me Mrs Nisha Sharma, she says with an emphasis on Mrs, clearly revelling in her marital status.


SEE ALSO:
Three 'weddings' and no dowry
19 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Delhi girls rebel over dowries
19 May 03  |  South Asia
Delhi dowry rows persist
21 May 03  |  South Asia
Another Indian bridegroom arrested
04 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Crowd stones home of Indian 'wife'
08 Oct 03  |  South Asia


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