“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
She has scored 84. 8 per cent in the science stream in the second PU exam and dreams of bigger academic goals. But that doesn’t complete the picture. This high-scorer cleaned bathrooms and scrubbed utensils, cooking and nursing, while juggling studies. That’s 17-year-old Shalini A, whose life story is more like an obstacle race.
Shalini had studied in Tamil medium from class one to seven, when she was shifted to Kannada medium till tenth standard. She then shifted to English medium for her PU studies at SGPTA-Deeksha College. If coping with frequent changes in the medium was not daunting enough, there were bigger challenges on the home front too.
Shalini, a resident of Mariyappanapalya near Rajajinagar, said her father who worked as a laborer, had been bedridden for over a decade after falling off a building. He has started moving around only recently, though he is still confined to the house. After the accident, her mother took up work as a housemaid in several houses so that she could provide for Shalini and her brother. With her mum away, the young girl had to run the show in her own house, doing everything from cooking to cleaning.
Just before the II PU exams, another tragedy struck the family. Her younger brother was diagnosed with third stage blood cancer. Shalini would often be in hospital with a book in her hand. “If I had not put in so much time in the hospital, I might have scored better. But my brother is more important to me than marks,” says the gritty teen, who has been thrown into another tough situation now. With her mother spending most of the day tending to her brother, Shalini had to take up her mother’s jobs. Though she’s preparing for CET now, she also maintains a grueling work schedule.
Explaining her schedule, Shalini said, “I wake up around 4.30 am. After finishing my household chores, I rush to five houses close by where my job is to sprinkle water and draw Rangoli.”She’s done by 6 am after which she rushes to an office where she mops the floors and cleans the bathrooms. “The work ends by 7.30 am and then I head to another house to wash clothes. I am relatively free by 9 am and go home to prepare for CET. My study, coupled with my household chores, ends by 12.30 pm when it’s time to step out again for two more jobs. I come back by 4.30 pm and have time till 6 pm to study.” After quickly squeezing in some studies, she is out for more work, returning only at night and once again pouring into her books till midnight.
The teenager credits her college officials with encouraging her to study. “She is a hardworking girl, friendly with everyone and attentive in nature. Despite her family’s condition, she always has a smile on her face,” Prathap Naidu, SGPTA PU College principal, Thyagarajnagar, said. Shalini has no qualms about the hard work, saying she is happy to support her family.
Life has not been kind enough for her as she had to face agony while pursuing her studies.”I aimed for scoring marks in the range of 90 to 95 percent, but could not, as I had to attend to my ailing brother, “she said. Her ambition is to become the first engineer in her family.
The family stays in a small house shared with Shalini’s mother Vijaya’s brother and his wife. Vijaya only studied till Class V, and her husband is illiterate. But she was perhaps her daughter’s biggest inspiration. Many say the real test of life is usually outside the examination hall. If that is the case, young Shalini is already a winner.