Death appeared to be a permanent guest at her home. The 21-year-old Shalu lost her beloved mother to cancer when she was just 12. Her father and grandmother then were the only solace for her and her two young siblings. And in about 3 years, they lost their grandmother. This was followed by the death of their father’s younger brother, and then another brother in a span of just one year.
The frightened children gathered around their father. But death had not done with the family. A year and a half later, their dear father had a fall from a scooter and died. The dance of death left a scar on her. Often she would wake up in the middle of the night and check on her siblings to find out if they were breathing.
The trauma called for several counselling sessions. Fortunately, she soon recovered when she realised that she had to assume the role of both father and mother to her siblings at that young age. She managed to get a job at a private hospital as an office assistant. Subsequently, it was a determined Shalu that one would encounter.
Though the number of well-wishers and benefactors dwindled as the months went by, Shalu wasn’t perturbed. She knew giving up was NOT an option. She knew she could not count on people forever. It would be a battle she would have to wage on. And wage on she did. She became the darling of the department she worked at.
She gave up the little pleasures of life and saved as much as she could to finance the education of her siblings. She hated being looked on with sympathy. It was as if, she says, “my parents were living in me and strengthening me.”
Within two years, one of her siblings has secured a small job after his Polytechnic course. Doesn’t she feel lonely and lose her composure at times? “I do,” Shalu admitted. “When I sit alone, I recall the good days we children spent with our parents. Sometimes, when we siblings come together, we look at our parents’ photo album and lose our control. But then, I make it a point to switch to something else. Or else, I know I would get frightened and feel horrible.”
Doesn’t she feel like crying sometimes? She replies with her inimitable smile: “There’s no time to cry sir, there’s a lot to get done.” We sure know she will. BRIDGE salutes her indomitable spirit and proudly presents her the first ACT Fibernet BRIDGE Resilience Award.