Saturday, 19 July 2014

Obit/Tribute - Zohra Segal (1912-2014) - Ashish Mohan Khokar

In the death of Zohra Segal, who witnessed a century of Indian dance and theatre, films and folk dances, an era is gone.

Sahibzaddi Zohra Begum Mumtazullah Khan shortened to Zohra Segal later, was born in Saharanpur, to the Rampur nobility (Rohilla Pathan stock) on 27th April 1912. This lady has seen a century of Indian art and has lived every moment of it. There was no dance in her immediate surroundings. Her mother died early and Zohra, one of seven siblings, was sent to Queen Mary's Girls School in Lahore as she was a bit of a tomboy and needed discipline. The school PT drill became a source of amusement for her and one thing led to other and she went off to Germany with her maternal uncle Saeeduzaffer Khan, who studied medicine at Edinburgh, in a car! Imagine in 1930s going through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and then take a boat from Alexandria to reach eastern "walled" Europe and arrive in Dresden to join ballerina Mary Wigman's school? This is stuff Zohra the great, is made of. Her training under Wigman style made her a true talent, sought no less by Uday Shankar when she met him backstage when he was touring Europe with 'Shiva Parvati' and assured her a job in his troupe once she finished her training and sure enough when she did and returned home, she received a telegram asking her if she would join him for his forthcoming Japan tour.  Her father was bit worried. How to send a young girl off on a tour like this? He asked her to think it through. While she was thinking, he went into the bedroom and came out with a train timetable saying, "Beta, the next train to Kathgodam is at 11.22!" Zohra was off. 

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