(May 19, 2022) Having completed her senior secondary school at the mere age of 13 Janhavi went on to become a 16-year-old graduate after finishing her undergraduate studies at Delhi University. The prodigy from Samalkha, a town 19 km south of Panipat is popularly known as the ‘wonder girl’ for not only her academic accomplishments but also her ability to speak English in nine accents – British, American, Polish, Received Pronunciation, Canadian, Scottish, Australian, Norfolk, and Cockney.
Raised in a traditional Haryanvi environment, Janhavi’s abilities are mystifying. She takes a more down-to-earth view, however, saying they have nothing to do with the “inborn skills” that people believe she possesses. “Good parenting and my own curiosity led me to explore different aspects. Developing my skills came from practice,” she states, in an interview with Global Indian. She did, however, show prodigious capabilities, even as a baby. “At the age of one-and-a-half, my vocabulary consisted of 500 English words.”
The dream that came true
Growing up, she learned of her father’s struggles to find a job. A highly erudite man – a double MA and an MPhil, which he possessed, made him stand out in the small town he called home. Still, work was never easy to come by, especially in Delhi-NCR, “as his communication skills in the English language weren’t so good, despite him knowing the subject,” Janhavi explains.
Deeply let down by the rejections, he made up his mind that his own children wouldn’t suffer like him. He decided they would be well-versed in spoken English, to thrive in a society where the language is so revered.
“When I was born, I became a means of experimentation for him. He started working on developing my English skills, right from the beginning, making sure that I converse in no other language with him,” she says.
“YouTube has played a big role in helping me master the accents,” she remarks. “I am studying phonetic transcriptions now in my master’s but have learned and practiced accents through phonetics transcriptions a long time ago,” says the former student of Asha Deep Senior Secondary School. By the age of nine, she would spend hours practicing her accents in English, even though the medium of learning at school was either Hindi or Haryanvi.
Her father, Brij Mohan is now a government school teacher while her mother Sanjana teaches in a private school. The ‘wonder girl’, who graduated with an undergraduate degree in English literature from DU, is about to finish her master’s from Kurukshetra University. “I enjoyed my time as a DU student, organising elections and being the Delhi University Student Union (DUSU) spokesperson. I did want to do a master’s in the UK but the pandemic messed up my plans,” she says.
Getting into the crux
Janhavi tends to immerse herself completely into anything she sets heart on to achieve. These days, she spends her time in the library but her perfectionist streak has always been with her. Growing up, she would spend hours as a six-year-old watching YouTube videos and English news channels. She would work constantly on polishing her accents, refusing to go to bed until she got them right. In fact, she wouldn’t sleep until every item on her to-do list was ticked.
Frequent travels to tourist spots like Red Fort, India Gate, and Taj Mahal to meet people of different nationalities was part of the training regimen set by her father. “The foreigners’ accents would intrigue me,” Janhavi recalls. “By the time I was nine, I was watching BBC and CNN and mimicking the anchors.” Not only was she blessed with an ear for accents, she had a photographic memory too. “If you play two television channels simultaneously, with different news programmes happening, I can repeat both the reports entirely, in the respective accent, even weeks afterwards. I can enter a flashback and recall the details.” No wonder, then, that the prodigy appeared for her class 10 board exams when she was 11!
Now at 18, Janhavi is set to finish her master’s progamme in English literature and is a sought-after motivational speaker who has conducted numerous sessions over the last five years. She had given her first motivational speech at the Bombay Institute of Public Administration to an audience of 150 IAS officers.
Janhavi finds non-STEM subjects her true calling, even when at the age of 10 she was not only a student of class 10 but also helping her classmates with their science lessons. “To appear in the board examinations at that age became possible after a meeting with the then CM of Haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda who after talking to me for more than an hour permitted me to appear for the exams under the Haryana State Board of School Education.” Due to her ability to grasp quickly, she has completed two classes in a single year finishing the syllabus of each class in six months flat.
Even when she took her standard 12 board exams in humanities, Janhavi finished her study of non-medical science syllabus out of love for garnering additional knowledge.
Active in motivating
The avid reader of autobiographies, books on the conscious mind, and spirituality started getting recognized for her insights at the age of 13, receiving invitations for giving motivational speeches, and for conducting sessions and seminars. “I have trained staff of MNCs in metros, and government institutions apart from students of several educational institutions,” she informs.
The youngster, who once wanted to be an anchor, was invited to BBC’s Delhi office for an interview. “The anchor said, ‘if you want to join BBC, the door is open for you’,” smiles the wonder girl, remarking “Now I want to take up entrepreneurship in the training space, once I finish my Ph.D. in English literature.”
With too much on her plate at the moment, she plans to write a book sometime in the future. For now, the prodigy has been relishing the pleasure of being an English songwriter, singing her songs. Through her YouTube channel, which has eight lakh subscribers, she has been on a spree of creating motivational videos for people so that they touch the highs of their lives and combat their lows successfully. “My curiosity keeps me going. Waking up and doing something new each day keeps me ticking.”
“When I am with friends and relatives, I am a different person altogether. I talk with them in Haryanvi with a pure Haryanvi accent, and prefer not to show the other side of my personality,” says the prodigy who is an inspiration to her younger sister, Saanvi.