Life lessons from the “Sowcar” of them all – Janaki

You are truly wealthy when you have been enriched by Life’s lessons – when you have gotten better and not bitter with Life’s experiences!  

Sowcar Janaki: Picture Courtesy – Internet
Last evening, as part of the Madras Week celebrations, we had an opportunity to interact with Sowcar Janaki, the South-Indian superstar of the 50s and 60s. Janaki made her debut in 1949 in the Telugu film, opposite N.T.Rama Rao, Shavukar (the title means wealthy person; and its corrupt version in Tamil is Sowcar) – the film was a big hit, it was remade in Tamil, and she has since been known as Sowcar Janaki!
Janaki, at 84 (she will be 85 this December; she shares her birthday with Rajnikant – December 12), oozes charm, is full of energy and is, simply, alive to the moment. Her career spans 67 years and she’s still active – she’s currently shooting for a Telugu film in Hyderabad.
After the story of her Life and films was presented by noted film historian Mohan Raman, Sowcaramma shared some nuggets of wisdom in response to questions from the audience. Each answer of hers is a learning, a Life lesson for us to reflect upon and imbibe:
Q: Has being a linguist (she knows several Indian languages and speaks impeccable English with a proper British accent) helped you through your career?
A: Absolutely. But it is not about just knowing languages. It is about your willingness to learn. I am still learning.
Q: Your immediate family did not allow you to join films when you were still unmarried. You proved everyone wrong by joining films after your child was born. What were the naysayers’ reactions to you after you became a star?
A: Survival teaches you many things. Among them is the need to be true to yourself and not worry about what others have to say. I simply shut myself out to the opinions of others. I needed to join films because I needed to earn money to provide for my family. As long as I was doing what I was good at to be a bread-winner I did not see any value in considering what others had to say. Yes, they all flocked to me after I made it big. But by then my experiences had taught me how to not put down people while still keeping them at a distance.
Q: How does a day in your Life look like?
A: Why? (Laughs) I am just an ordinary human being. I work in films. Just as others work elsewhere. I learnt early on not to cling on to fame and name. I know one day you will be stripped off everything – your name, your fame, your money, your glory – all this will go. I cook. I potter around my garden. I don’t have anyone do anything for me that I can do myself. So I lead a fairly active day. I always count my blessings – fortunately at my age, I don’t have a sugar factory (diabetes) or an oil factory (cholesterol). And I have this audience in front of me. Aren’t these blessings? I consider myself very lucky!
Her nickname may be Sowcaramma. But she’s wealthier than the most materially rich person in the world. Because she has the wealth of wisdom gained from a lifetime of experiences! If you internalize the essence each of her answers in the context of your Life, you too may just grow a wee bit richer than you already are!