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Life's a whirl

Humour is what keeps Zohra Sehgal, doyenne of theatre, going



Zohra Sehgal: `I recite the poetry of my favourite poets such as Faiz, Iqbal and Ali Sardar Jafri every evening.'

SHE IS in her nineties, but nervousness is the last thing on her mind. Ask her the mantra of sustenance and Zohra Sehgal shocks you: "It is sex, beta." But the shock is short-lived as Zohra confirms what you and I generally attribute longevity to — a disciplined and organised lifestyle and certainly a sharp sense of humour, the lubricant that gels the two rigid words.

So what is a day like in the life of the doyenne of Indian theatre? "My day starts at 8 a.m. with four glasses of water. For breakfast I take a large cup of milk. At 1.30 p.m. my lunch comprises two slices of toast, a bowl of soup and a little salad. In the evening, I eat an apple and at 8.30 p.m., I enjoy my dinner which consists of two chapatis, sabzi and some fish. I make sure that I don't have anything between meals." That's not all. Zohra unfolds her exercise regimen that includes dance exercises where she moves one part of her body without disturbing the others. Demonstrating her art, she says: "I also do some relaxation exercises which I learnt in Germany."

All through, humour is sandwiched between the slices of life. She says with pride: "Every now and then, some channel keeps showing Amma and Family and generation after generation keeps calling me their Amma. When I go for a walk in the evening, the residents of my colony compel me to have tea with them."

However, what surprises most is her memory and her ability to memorise and deliver long dialogue at an age when remembering things is difficult. "I read the newspapers for an hour but, most important, I recite the poetry of my favourite poets such as Faiz, Iqbal and Ali Sardar Jafri every evening."

Idea of beauty

Having seen the glorious years of Prithvi Theatre where her sister Uzra Butt was the leading lady, Zohra says her idea of beauty revolved around blue eyes, blonde hair and gorgeous body. "I also wanted everything. But now I believe inner beauty is better." Having seen the best of theatre, British and Hindi cinema, Zohra's fans miss an autobiography. Zohra reflects: "When I was in Britain, publishers used to say I have spent my formative years in India so I should approach an Indian publisher. Later, when I returned to India, Indian publishers told me I have spent a major chunk of my career in Britain, I should look for an international publisher." However, Zohra has a biography in the form of little-known Stagers.

Recently appointed brand ambassador for a hearing aid, Zohra says: "This was the only thing I could associate with because with these crooked lips I can't sell lipsticks. And the aid is handy because now I can hear my cues easily." Keep going, Zohra!

ANUJ KUMAR

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