A woman who led life on her own terms, with a smile on her face throughout, a legend, Zohra Sehgal, known for her vivacious personality was born as Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan on April 27th, 1912. She is famously known to have started her dance career with Uday Shankar in 1935. Having lived a full life, Zohra passed away at the age of 102, on 10th July 2014.
Even after her departure from this world, some of her sayings remain to inspire us to see life in a whole new light.
The saying ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ may be a cliché. But it is another thing completely, when you see someone who lives her life on those very terms. Known to have lived a full life, she said: “I’ve lived life to the fullest. I’ve squeezed the best out of life.”
She is famously known to have said: “I’m preparing myself for death. When I go to sleep, I try to keep myself smiling, so that when I die, I will have a smile on my lips. I want an electric cremation. I don’t want any poems or fuss after that. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bring back my ashes. Flush them down the toilet if the crematorium refuses to keep them. If they tell you that I am dead, I want you to give a big laugh.”
It is one thing to accept death, but another to welcome death as a comrade and friend.
“There is an energy that drives me; a voice that tells me every morning ‘You must go on.’ Probably there would be a voice which tells me ‘Zohra it’s time for you to stop.’” The first Indian woman to learn ballet in Germany, and the longest living actor to appear on screen, Zohra Sehgal worked till the age of 100 and continued to do so with energy and prowess that rivalled much younger stars.
While most self-help books speak about being happy and content with everything in life, few people actually have the power to do so. Zohra was never one to sweet talk, to say anything like what is said in self-help books, but there was one thing that drove her life- contentment in everything she did.
“I don’t understand the hullabaloo about inner beauty. What actually brings out your beauty is the radiance of being content and you can only be content when you are employed in something you love. When admirers praise me for raising the paradigm for women in acting, I say b***s. What have I done for them consciously? Whatever I’ve done, I’ve done it for love of acting, fame and power. The love for life and work probably radiates as my inner beauty!”
Life is tough in itself, but if there is one thing you can learn from Zohra Sehgal on her death anniversary, it is to not take life too seriously.
“Life becomes drudgery if you don’t have a sense of humour. A good sense of humour makes you see the funny side of a tragedy.”
Whether it was her statement that it was humour and sex that kept her going at the age of 97 or her talking about her first burqa, Zohra always believed in living her life to the fullest. It has been two years since Zohra Sehgal passed away. And yet, the life she led shall continue to be a source of inspiration to many for a good time to come.