Saturday, May 17, 2003

Defiant Indian Brides

First, sorry for the lack of posts. I, along with many of my friends from undergrad- me with an MA in International Security and my friends with MD's- are graduating this week and that has resulted in the sporadic postings. Work has also been busy so that has also contributed to the lack of posts.

Anyway, I saw this story in the New York Times on a dowry situation in India and I had to post it. While of course many families are not able to react to ridiculous requests for a higher dowry, it is encouraging to witness 21-year old Nisha Sharma's pro-active reaction to a family's greed.

"The musicians were playing, the 2,000 guests were dining, the Hindu priest was preparing the ceremony and the bride was dressed in red, her hands and feet festively painted with henna. Then, the bride's family says, the groom's family moved in for the kill. The dowry of two televisions, two home theater sets, two refrigerators, two air-conditioners and one car was too cheap. They wanted $25,000 in rupees, now, under the wedding tent. As a free-for-all erupted between the two families, the bartered bride put her hennaed foot down. She reached for her royal blue cellphone and dialed 100. By calling the police, Nisha Sharma, a 21-year-old computer student, saw her potential groom land in jail and herself land in the national spotlight as India's new overnight sensation."

While I love Bollywood and other things Indian, there are too few role-models for Indian women to follow on the national stage. Hopefully, not just girls, but Indians everywhere will take a cue from Ms. Sharma's actions and not let eager and greedy families dictate their lives.

When the police came, the bride's father said, they spent an hour calming the wedding party, giving the groom and his family ample time to escape. To make a show of action, they detained the musicians' bus. Mr. Sharma intervened, and the musicians were freed. Three hours after the brawl, when Mr. Sharma was registering his complaint at the police station, a television crew from the Aaj Tak news channel happened to be at the station. "With the pressure of the media people, the police went to the boy's house and arrested him," Mr. Sharma said. Today the Sharmas had no regrets about their expensive wedding collapsing in chaos. "People say now it will be very difficult to marry my daughter again," Mr. Sharma said. "But I thought, if trouble is starting today, tomorrow may be worse. It could be killing. I thought, let the money go." Unfazed by the loss of her fiancé, Ms. Sharma said that since Monday she had received 20 to 25 marriage proposals, by cellphone, e-mail and letter.


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