Life Lessons From The Indomitable Zohra

Feb 20, 2015 1 Min Read


The late Zohra Sehgal was someone whom I consider to be an extraordinary woman. She was unapologetic in every sense of the word.

Sehgal was an actress and choreographer from Saharanpur, India. In her 20s, she travelled to Egypt, Europe, and the United States as part of Uday Shankar’s famous dance troupe.

Besides dancing, she also starred in multiple international films from the 1940s.

She is known for playing a sassy lovable grandmother in more recent films: Bend It Like Beckham, Dil Se, Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham, and the famous television series, Doctor Who.

Reading about her and watching her movies taught me a lot about fearlessness, an attribute I think everyone should possess.

Here are just a few of the numerous lessons Sehgal has taught me.

1. Water off a duck’s back

Considering the fact that Sehgal was a single young woman travelling and working independently in the 1930s, she endured criticisms for not adhering to the norms of staying home, getting married, or having children.

Being fearful of what others think is something that holds many people back from pursuing their passions and becoming the best that they can be.

Sehgal was seemingly unfazed by other people’s judgments (like water off a duck’s back!), proving that she was courageous enough to do things on her own terms.

2. It’s okay to laugh at yourself

Sehgal was known for finding the funny side to any situation, even if it was at her own expense. She was once quoted as saying:

“You see me now when I am old and ugly, in fact you should have seen me earlier – when I was young and ugly!”

Her comment about her appearance showed me that it was okay to not always be perfect, and that we might as well laugh off our imperfections while still learning to be better.

3. Love + Work = Confidence

Sehgal’s philosophy in life was all about finding happiness and being involved in something you love. That happiness should then radiate from within, exhibiting our inner beauty for the world to see.

Her beliefs really resonated with me as I find building my self-confidence as somewhat of a struggle. When inner beauty shines through as a result of fulfilling one’s passion, confidence will also shine through.


This woman continues to be a great inspiration to me; she dedicated her life to her craft till her recent passing at the age of 102.

Reading about her long, colourful life really encouraged me to seize the day, take chances, and not to let the fear of failing stop me.

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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 21 February 2015

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