Meet Shalini Singh, she was 18, pursuing her first year of graduation when she received a proposal for marriage. The young man was an army officer, Major Avinash Singh Bhadauria.
Major Avinash posted in Doda, Kashmir, with the 8 Rashtriya Rifles unit had single-handedly killed four terrorists. But in the cut-throat fight, had succumbed to his gunshots and attained martyrdom at 29.
At 23, she was an army widow, left to fend on her own with her two-year-old son. “She still remember telling some of Avinash’s friends that she had to be strong for her son Dhruv and honour of her husband’s sacrifice for the nation. she decided to join the Army after a few of his colleagues suggested that she try. They however told her it would be gruelling, unsure if my fragile and delicate body would be able to take it. They told her about the frequent and remote postings and how Dhruv was still young and dependent on her. But she had decided that her son was going to be her strength, and she would not let him be a weakness.”
She quit her post-graduation course midway to prepare for the Service Selection Board (SSB) interview. In December 2001, three months after she had lost Avinash, she was called for a week-long interview at SSB, Allahabad.
“she faced every challenge during the selection process head-on, but she would break down at night, missing Dhruv. It was all worth the effort when her results arrived. she had cracked it. she remember rushing to her parents, huddling together with Dhruv and crying, although this time, they were tears of joy, remembering Major Avinash.”
This selection was only the beginning of long hauls when his mother would be posted in remote locations for months at a stretch. “she practised it so that he could get accustomed to the separation.”
In March 2002, Shalini meticulously trained for six months at the Officers Training Academy (OTA), in Chennai.
Shalini gives her own word-
“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.”
On September 7, 2002, within a year of her husband’s demise, only just three weeks away from Major Avinash’s first death anniversary, Shalini was a Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army.
On the day of her graduation parade, while her critics looked up and took notice of the woman clad in the olive green uniform, a three-year-old Dhruv pulled on to the epaulettes on her uniform.
“Walking up to the podium, clad in my uniform to receive my husband’s Kirti Chakra (Second Highest Peacetime Gallantry Award) from former Late President APJ Abdul Kalam was the proudest moment of my life.”
“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 if you think her story ends here, it doesn’t. The following is a part which she confesses she’s never talked about at length to anyone.”
In 2008, she remarried. He was a divorcee, who promised to keep Shalini happy and give Dhruv a secure future. Alas, it was only a matter of time, until the truth came out.
In 2009, she met with a road accident in Bikaner that left her bedridden for a year. She had suffered 17 fractures, her left leg was broken, and her right one was severely damaged. Doctors had shared their apprehensions of her being able to walk normally again
But Shalini would not give up. It took her a year to stand, and today, she runs marathons and goes out for 10 km runs, every alternate day.
It was at the time that Shalini realised that something was not quite right with her marriage too. The man who had promised to secure her son’s future wouldn’t let him stay with Shalini. They never allowed her son to stay with her after marriage and he continued to stay with Shalini’s parents. Her new in-laws told her that she would have to give her son to Avinash’s parents or leave him at an orphanage.
When Shalini’s father, who passed in 2010, required money for treatment, her second husband, who handled her fi