She was only nine when Haryana girl, Janhavi Panwar was given the title of ‘Wonder girl of India’.
At 14, when most of her counterparts are studying in class eight, Janhavi is pursuing the second year in her Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Delhi University.
Well her exceptional academic record is not the only feather in her hat. Born to a government teacher and a homemaker in the village of Malpur, this young girl has mastered eight foreign accents, in addition to basic French, basic Japanese, English, Hindi and Haryanavi languages.
Her parents realised Janhavi was different from most kids her age when she was merely a year old, her father, Brijmohan Panwar, recalls in an interview with The Better India.
“When she was only one, her vocabulary was equipped with 500-550 English words. When she turned three, she wasn’t admitted to Nursery but directly to Senior KG because she had picked most things at home. As years passed, when we spoke to the school management, they realised Janhavi’s potential by looking at her scores, and she was given special permission to clear two classes in the same year.”
Even as young as she was, the crosswords and pictorial books consisting of animals, birds and fruits her father brought interested her more than any other toy.
The family though wasn’t financially sound at the start. After his father’s death, Brijmohan worked at a private school where he would travel on his cycle. It was only after Janhavi’s birth that he started working in a government school.
“When my wife was pregnant, like most families in rural settings, our family thought it would be a son. But Janhavi’s birth was celebrated with just as much zeal. I’ve always maintained that my daughter is my pride. Girls are in no way secondary to boys.”
He continues, “We are from a traditionally rural background, neither my wife nor I am fluent in English. Even the school Janhavi was studying in, had teachers who would speak on our local dialect, Haryanavi or Hindi. But I would help her as much as I could. I still remember how she first picked up accents when we started speaking to tourists at the Red Fort.”
It was after this that Brijmohan started downloading short English video clips to make a young Janhavi listen to them.
“She would listen to it once, and she speak in the same accent. It was at the time that I started downloading BBC news videos. She would listen to an hour-long bulletin and within no time, start picking up the accent and speed with which the anchors spoke. I thought it could be something I should encourage,” says Brijmohan.
It was only a matter of time until he found a linguist named Rekha Raj who was based in Panipat to help Janhavi master accents. So everyday after school, he would take her to these coaching classes, where she would train under Rekha. It helped her a great deal, says Brijmohan.
Today, Janhavi can speak a number of accents including British, American, Posh, Scottish, Australian etc.
To avoid people from mocking her saying she was merely mimicking these accents, her father even signed her up for linguistic classes online in the US and UK.
By 11, she could speak in these eight accents fluently.
She even started learning the basics of foreign languages like French and Japanese.
Her father recalls, “We even visited the embassies in Delhi to help her polish her foreign languages, but they don’t admit children until they turn 16 years old.”
As a motivational speaker, she has spoken to IAS officers and educational institutes across eight states in India.
She wants to become a BBC news anchor when she grows up and pursue a course in mass communication for the same.
She is also keen on cracking the UPSC and has started reading the preparatory material.
In addition to learning new accents and languages, Brijmohan adds how the young girl has a beautiful singing voice. When she isn’t busy reading a complete book in two days, she records song covers.
“She has even read the Bhagavad Gita in English. If you were to ask her to recite what happened in any particular chapter, she would narrate it to you in detail. Her memory is that powerful,” adds her proud father.
In a final message to parents, he says, “As busy as most of us are, it is important to give our children the time they deserve. It doesn’t matter if they are academically bright or not, believe in them and support them in their dreams.”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)