BENGALURU: 17-year-old Shalini of Bengaluru has scored 84 per cent in her Class 12 exam. Nothing unusual, many would argue – except that when others took study breaks, this teen worked as a help in five houses.
In addition to studying for her exams, Shalini cleaned houses to add to her family’s income.
“I used to clean clothes, clean utensils and put rangolis (decorative motifs on the floor),” she told NDTV in fluent English. Her ambition is to become the first engineer in her family.
Shalini’s father Armugam was disabled in an accident and does not work anymore. Her mother Vijaya, the main bread earner, has to juggle her cleaning jobs with hospital duties; Shalini’s younger brother Surya has been diagnosed with blood cancer and is in hospital.
Shalini had no choice but to continue working while preparing for her exams.
Asked how she managed to get any studying done, the teenager says: “I woke up at 4.30 am, went to a house to put Rangoli, that was till 5.30, then I mopped and cleaned at another house till 7.30, then went to another house to wash clothes and clean utensils till 9, then I studied, had breakfast, went to another house to wash clothes, then another house to clean utensils, then studied at night…” Shalini’s day seems impossibly long, but then she has always been a fighter.
She started with a Tamil medium school, then shifted to Kannada medium and finally went to an English medium college.
The family stays in a small house shared with Shalini’s mother Vijaya’s brother and his wife. Vijaya only studied till Class 5 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.