Shalini Singh has surely come a long way – from a delicate young girl to a self-dependent, tough & courageous single mom. She fought against all circumstances to create a better life not only for herself but also for her son.
Shalini was only 18 years old when a young army officer, Major Avinash Singh Bhadauria, proposed her for marriage.
Though she was ready to be married, unlike many others she wasn’t ready to give up on education for married life. So, Shalini made sure to complete her graduation after marriage.
Within 2 years of marriage, the beautiful couple was blessed with the baby boy, Dhruv in 1999.
Like most of the army wives, Shalini’s life wasn’t easy. While recalling how her husband continuously prepared her for tough times, she shared with TBI:
“He would often tell me how I had to be strong and independent. But I never really understood the full meaning of his words until that fateful call arrived on 28th September 2001.”
Her life completely changed when Major Avinash, in attempt to kill terrorists, succumbed to gunshots and attained martyrdom at the age of 29.
And, at a young age of 23, Shalini was an army widow, who was on her own with her two-year-old son.
Shalini shared how her whole life came crashing down as she received the news about Avinash demise:
“The only thought in my head was that this was the end. The idea that a man is so important in your life that you have no existence without him was so strongly grilled in my head, that all I could think of was ending my life. But my only hope was my son, Dhruv, as he lay in my lap giggling, oblivious to the tragedy that had snatched his father away.
I still remember telling some of Avinash’s friends that I had to be strong for Dhruv and honour my husband’s sacrifice for the nation.
I decided to join the Army after a few of his colleagues suggested that I try. They however told me it would be gruelling, unsure if my fragile and delicate body would be able to take it. They told me about the frequent and remote postings and how Dhruv was still young and dependent on me.
But I had decided that my son was going to be my strength, and I would not let him be a weakness.”
So, she quit her post-graduation course midway to prepare for the Service Selection Board (SSB) interview. And, three months after losing Avinash, she was called for the interview at SSB. Shalini faced the selection process with all her courage and cracked it.
Only just three weeks away from Major Avinash’s first death anniversary, Shalini was a Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army.
But it wasn’t easy.
“Going from saris and suits to uniform and army boots wasn’t easy. To put it bluntly, the training was very tough. But the mental pain I had gone through the last few months overpowered any physical pain. I had to fight back at life, for us, for Avinash.”
Capt Shalini dedicatedly served the country for five years and broke the glass ceiling as a single mother working in a male-dominated environment. But, her story of courage doesn’t end here.
In 2008, she remarried as the man promised to give her son a secure future. But, hardly she knew what she was getting into.
The man, who had promised to secure her son’s future wouldn’t even let him stay with Shalini. But things took an ugly turn when her husband turned into an abuser. Recalling her trauma, she revealed:
“He (the second husband) broke a glass on my head, after hitting it thrice in succession.
The left side of my head had shards of glass in it, and my face was bloodied. My in-laws just stood there. I sustained 32 stitches on my head and was struggling for my life.
Not only this, my brother, who is in the banking sector, realized that my husband had siphoned off over 45 lakhs of my hard-earned money to his mother’s account.
This pushed me into a traumatic and depressive state. But I had seen far too much to keep quiet then.”
Shalini doesn’t like speaking about her second life, because she doesn’t consider her second husband as part of her life. She has dedicated her entire life to her first husband and feels proud to bear his surname.
And, when in 2017, Capt Shalini was also crowned ‘Classic Mrs. India – Queen of Substance’, many felt that the title was perfect for this woman of steel.
At I FOR HER, we are celebrating Capt. Shalini’s courage and determination to build a life of dignity irrespective of the setbacks that she encountered.
We wish her luck and hope many more women would seek inspiration from her story as she never let her life problems dictate her future.