Dowry or degree? The choice that shaped Romila Thapar's life

  • 4 January 2013
  • From the section World
Romila Thapar
Prof Thapar's work gained her an international reputation - but also death threats

As 2013 gets under way, I've been thinking about some of the people I met over the past year. One conversation I particularly enjoyed was with one of India's greatest historians, 81-year-old Romila Thapar.

When she was a young woman her father gave her a choice - he could afford a dowry or pay for her degree, but not both. Prof Thapar chose the degree - and has never looked back.

I interviewed Prof Thapar as part of a BBC World Service season called the Age of Reason, which explored, with six octogenarians, how the world changed for them, and women in the last eight decades.

I also interviewed Dr Nawal el Saadawi for the series. I've known her work for years. She's a leading Egyptian feminist, and fighter for women's rights who qualified as a doctor in the 1950s. Prison, death threats and being fired from her government job never dented her determination.

Also 81, she's a woman who has lived through two unfinished revolutions and is still campaigning for change. You can hear my interview with her on the BBC World Service on Saturday at 20:05 GMT.