Sharma, Mama's favorite cousin, lives alone in the desert, herding her own animals. She was married to an abusive husband, and, after she built up a small flock of her own, she took her daughter and left him. She lives independently in the desert. Sharma is sharp-tongued, self-reliant, iconoclastic, and wise.

Sharma provides Shabanu with an important role model. She is a role model and source of hope for the free-spirited young girl. At the same time, she is not reckless, overly idealistic, or naïve. She understands that the best life for a woman in her society is as the wife of a decent, good-hearted man, and she tells Shabanu as much. When it becomes clear that Shabanu will not marry a trustworthy man, she counsels Shabanu to learn to use her beauty and charm to manipulate the man and to guard fiercely her innermost self from him. Sharma does not regret the decisions she has made in her life, but she knows the life she leads is hard. She does not give Shabanu a falsely idealized picture of her life.