“We All Are Strong and Beautiful”

From an Army widow to Army officer to pageant winner, Captain Shalini Singh has reinvented herself many times in life, charting her own path, on her own terms. On International Women’s Day, we spoke to her about her life journey that epitomises both beauty and bravery.

Army wife, Army veteran, pageant winner and single mother – you have played diverse roles in life. What encourages you to keep reinventing yourself?

  • I strongly believe that there is only one life we have got as human beings. It’s in our hand to make it or break it. Life is too short and I want to learn and explore as much possible. This thought is my driving force to keep moving under all circumstances.

You stand for both bravery and beauty, two facets that are often held opposite to one another. How do you straddle both expectations?

  • We all are strong and beautiful – the only thing we need is self-belief and determination. Accept things with open arms and grow with them!

What is the biggest gender bias you have faced, and what did it teach you?

  • When my husband was martyred, people around me looked at me as a helpless person. They wondered how a young widow would survive. But I turned the tables by donning the Army uniform in less than a year of his martyrdom. It taught me that it’s only in the minds of others that a woman is weak. Courage and strength are what we are born with and everyone should know this.

As a single parent, what’s your biggest challenge and strength? Any advice for single mothers?

  • Being a single parent has been the toughest and easiest task of my life. Toughest because it’s sad that a child needs both set of parents and he must grow up without one. That’s a requirement I can’t fulfil. And easiest because it’s completely in my hands how I want him to grow up as a human being, so it’s my responsibility and duty.

To all the other single mothers, I know it’s tough but as I say, “the best view comes after the hardest climb…” You are polishing a diamond and that’s not easy! Enjoy it.

What are the two things you balance in life each day, either mentally, physically, or emotionally?

  • Each day, I get up with the thought that I have come this far – a long journey travelled alone. And for a moment, it pushes me down, but in the second moment it gives me an adrenaline rush to keep moving because it’s such an adventurous journey. I don’t know what comes next, so the best thing is to move on and let it unfold.

I keep myself physically and mentally fit and active. Because if I lose my health, then it’s all gone. I have to take care of my health and I can’t expect others to do it. So, I try and balance a healthy lifestyle amid all the stress and pressure.