20 October, 2020

A Nymph Named Zohra

Six tempestuous decades after setting out for Dresden in a silk burqa to learn dance, Zohra Sehgal retains her zest for life

A Nymph Named Zohra

LIKE a wise old spider Zohra Sehgal lies waiting to net little flies like me. When I rang the other day to request an interview she said, "Ah, magazine interview. But for such things I charge a fee," and mentioned a figure, not too large but not too small. Her wonderful, big laugh, something between a gurgle and a guffaw, filled the earpiece. "It's fine for fellows like you to ask," she added, "but I'm 85 and have to start saving for my funeral."

The incident put me in mind of a similar demand in London, years ago, when an English magazine asked me to interview Lady Diana Cooper, the celebrated wit and beauty. "Be delighted to see you," piped Lady Diana in her high aristocratic voice. "But it'll be £100 for the hour." The English magazine was less generous than Outlook with Zohra Sehgal—its editor suggested I get a quote over the telephone. "Quote?" asked Lady Diana, a withering note creeping into her tone when I called back. "Stop badgering me, young man, because I just...



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