Women we know are experts at multitasking, but managing two careers is not only daunting but can be pretty challenging. However, our woman achiever, Shalini Mullick, shows how it can be done and done extremely well. Shalini is a doctor who became a writer and is now a published author. She shared the story of her life with us.
Childhood and Early Life
Our childhood experiences greatly influence our future. As children, we learn and absorb important values and beliefs that shape our personalities and paths in life. Our parents are the ones who guide us through this critical development stage. They teach essential life skills and instill values that shape our thoughts and character. As parents have a significant impact on their children, it is crucial that they are mindful of their parenting approach and set a positive example for their children to follow.
Shalini’s parents instilled the correct values in their children that would benefit them in the long run. Growing up, Shalini learned the importance of hard work, kindness, open-mindedness, and maintaining strong bonds with loved ones. These principles had a profound impact on Shalini and her brother, teaching them the value of diligence, academic success, and meaningful connections.
This upbringing resulted in Shalini doing extremely well in school and pursuing medicine at the Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi, an institution of great repute.
Having a mother who was a doctor meant that Shalini would have a career, though as a child, she was not sure about what she wanted to do. She didn’t have any plans to be a doctor, though everyone thought it would be a natural progression for her. She wanted to do something different.
After school, she joined Lady Shriram College, a part of Delhi University, but her mind started ticking once she began studying there. She started thinking about what she wanted to do rather than what she didn’t want to do. That thought process, somewhere inspired by her legacy, prompted her to give medicine a shot, and she decided to appear for the medical entrance exams. She appeared she qualified, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Though the entire process meant she had to drop a year, she feels it was the best thing she could have done. That is because the period enabled her to gather her thoughts and make the right decision. Today, she is proud of the fact that she made the decision independently without any influence.
Also Read: The Journey of a Working Woman
Challenges and Roadblocks
Life is a mix of challenges and opportunities, but it is the challenges that make us strong and resilient.
Like her fellow medical students, Shalini encountered the common hurdle of enduring lengthy and ceaseless hours of studying, taking exams, and consistently working hard. Although it took her a while to become accustomed to the arduous routine, she eventually learned to manage it effectively.
Since her college was an all-girls institution, life was simple and relatively untouched as far as the outside world was concerned. But while it gave her a protected environment, it also didn’t prepare her for the world outside. The challenges she faced when she stepped out into the world were quite a shocker and a big eye-opener.
It was when she stepped out that she realised that the world is an unequal place, especially when it comes to men and women. Since she had studied in an all-girls institution, she had never faced discrimination due to her gender. But when she started working, she realised that society is full of unfair beliefs and stereotypes that make men consider themselves superior to women. This was unbelievable and totally unacceptable to someone who had grown up in a cosmopolitan and broad-minded environment.
She also witnessed a lot of misogyny and objectification of women. She realised that there were many cultural expectations for women, which were prejudiced and biased. For instance, she observed that when a man was loud and firm, he was called assertive, and when a woman did the same, she was labelled aggressive and hormonal! And this still holds.
She also observed that women were not supposed to be seen or heard in the workplace. What they said was either unacknowledged or unappreciated. Not only was all this new to her, but it was also surprising. She couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that the educated and supposedly evolved people indulged in this sort of behaviour. She wasn’t prepared to face all this, but with time and experience, she has learnt how to deal with these situations.
She believes that dealing with such situations is first recognising and understanding what is happening and then learning to politely and firmly putting your foot down. She feels it is critical to call out when you observe discriminatory or prejudiced behaviour because if you don’t, you will be angry and unhappy and set a wrong precedent. But while it is essential to call it out, it is equally important to do that without creating a ruckus about it. One can be polite and firm to put one’s point across.
She also believes that we can’t fight everything in life, so we must learn to pick our battles and remember that we are not here to change the world. What we can and must do is to put forth our perspectives as firmly as possible and try to make a dent in the existing mindset. But we’ve got to remember that changes in mindsets and ways of thinking cannot happen overnight. They have existed for centuries and are embedded in our psyches, so changing will take time. But if you make your point repeatedly and set your boundaries, you are bound to make a difference.
Juggling Different Roles
Everyone has multiple roles to play in life, and all those roles have to be balanced; it is not one instead of the other. The balance is precarious, and we may not always get it. There will be hits and misses. But Shalini has devised some techniques to bring that balance to her life, which she shared with us.
She has learnt to bring balance into her life by saying NO to things she can’t or won’t do. She feels the ability to say NO is our superpower, which we must exercise. She puts forth an interesting perspective. She says that when we say NO to others, we are saying YES to ourselves, to what we need to survive, and therefore, we should not feel guilty about it. We have all been conditioned not to say NO, to walk the extra mile for others and several times at the cost of ourselves. That is something Shalini feels we should not do because this comes at the cost of our happiness and peace of mind. Therefore, if we develop the ability to say No to people and to work, we will find balance in our lives.
She also believes that for balance, our priorities must be in place. We must know when to do what. We cannot give the same importance to everything and try and do everything. It is just not possible.
Moreover, priorities will change over time. What is important today may be insignificant tomorrow. Therefore, balancing whatever is coming on top at a particular time or day is critical.
Also, whenever we are trying to do many things, there will always be something that we will miss out on. We have to accept that and not be resentful about it. Ultimately, life is about making choices; one choice will always come at the cost of another.
Achievements and Accomplishments
Success for Shalini is about being able to achieve the goals she has set for herself. It is not about winning awards and accolades. She doesn’t measure success by these metrics. For her, success is about being able to read the book she wanted to read, the course she wanted to pursue or the piece of writing she had set herself to do.
She feels accolades and honours are shallow and transient and cannot give her as much fulfilment as she desires. It is the accomplishment of her goals that fills her soul and gives her contentment.
At work as a doctor, she wants to do quality work every day, and as a writer, she wants to touch the reader with her writing.
Highs and Lows of Life
Like everyone else, Shalini, too, has days when she is down and out, feeling low and uninspired. To cope with such days, she has her ways.
For starters, she has a lot of people she can turn to. She has friends and family members who are there for her. They will check if she has been out of touch for a while. If she needs to, she can reach out to them, and they will pep her up, give her solace and encourage her to get on with her life and work. She feels it is critical to surround yourself with people who give you positive energy, are your champions and are always there for you.
When feeling low, rather than continuing in that state, she takes things in her hands and starts making lists of things she has to do. She thinks by planning and scheduling, you can get a feeling of being in control, which helps during such times. Moreover, planning helps break one big task into several small but manageable ones. That gives a start without overwhelming.
And when nothing works, she relies on discipline to escape the dark mood. She pushes herself to do the task at hand and does not give herself a choice. That helps her get out of the down-and-out state.
Also, she feels that one needs to look around to get out of an uninspired state. So many people are doing so many different things that one can easily get inspired and motivated. On such days, one should step away from life’s clutter and allow oneself to be.
Ten Years From Now
Shalini feels that we may plan anything in life, but life will have something else planned for us. Many of our plans may come to nought. Therefore, she doesn’t believe in planning too far ahead.
She doesn’t know where she will be ten years from now but hopes to be happy and fulfilled in whatever she does. She wants to live a life with no regrets.
Learnings of Life
Shalini feels there are many lessons that life has taught her, which now guide her in all her endeavours.
According to her, there will be times when, despite your best efforts, things don’t fall in place or turn out the way you would have expected them to. It will cause a lot of disappointment and will hurt, but she feels at such times, we must remember that, eventually, it will be okay.
If you have your conviction and know you did the right thing, just let it be. Have faith and trust the process. Believe that the sun will rise the next day.
She has also learned that everything in life passes. Whether it is good or bad, everything is temporary. One must remember that nothing is in our control; therefore, we must make the best of what we have.
She also feels that having people in life is very important. They are the ones who will be there for you when you are down and out. Therefore, invest in people and relationships. She feels that we often put our relationships on hold because of all the clutter in our lives. But we must make time for them because that’s a resource we can always tap into and depend upon.
Also, she believes one must be warm, generous, compassionate and good with people. When you do that, you spread happiness and become a part of the circle of goodness.
World and Successful Women
According to Shalini, the world reacts to successful women in different ways.
People who genuinely feel for you will be happy and proud of your accomplishments, but according to her, such people are few.
Most of the time, people will talk about you and judge you for your choices and decisions you may have taken to get to where you are. They will also make you feel guilty for missing out on things you may have missed to do what you did instead.
According to her, most people who react negatively are the ones who are fearful of you and your success. Their responses originate from their fear of what you have accomplished and what you have become. That is because achieving what you have signals breaking a barrier, a tradition and doing something no one has done before and which people did not expect you to do.
Doing something new signifies your growth and your empowerment, which people fear. They feel intimidated by your evolving because it challenges them and their way of existing. They can no longer hold you back and control you, which scares them. Shalini feels that an empowered woman is the scariest thing on this planet.
Shalini feels that switching gears and doing something completely new and different is becoming a huge trend now, with more and more people doing it.
She feels this is largely the result of the changing world scenario, with more openness in our way of thinking and living. Thanks to all the globalisation and liberalisation, people are getting more exposure and becoming aware of the multiple things they can do.
In the earlier times, though people had desires and awareness, they couldn’t follow them because our straight-jacked education system, which no one wanted to deviate from, did not allow them to explore. People were pushed on a path, and that was it. They stuck to it for the rest of their lives.
But today, thanks to the digital revolution, we can think of giving vent to our desires and actually following them. This revolution has given us the option to explore the other side of our personalities, the creative and the innovative side. So, for instance, once she discovered that she could write, she became part of several reading and writing groups and courses that helped fuel and nurture her desire. And she found all these thanks to the digital world we live in.
Along with that, our social conventions have undergone a transformation. We have become more open and accepting as a society. We are okay with seeing people leading unconventional lives or being in unconventional relationships. It is no longer taboo or an aberration. This means that people have a lot more freedom and flexibility in making choices in life.
Moreover, we also have the financial freedom to explore things the previous generation didn’t have. Their responsibilities did not allow them to look beyond the daily grind.
Also, there is so much inspiration around with many people doing so many different things.
Combining all these factors means people can follow their hearts and find happiness.
Shalini has experienced this transition, this switching of gears in her life. She is a doctor and an author. Shalini shared the journey of her transition with us.
According to her, she started on this journey in 2019. One of her friends regularly shared her thoughts on social media, and Shalini began responding to her posts. Her well-written and thought-through responses were very well-received and praised by people in that group. This gave her a lot of encouragement and validation and pushed her to write more.
She started writing short stories for magazines and participating in writing contests, and when people loved her writings, she got further validation. And then the pandemic happened. The world had a lot of chaos, but it also meant people had more time than before.
As a doctor, she was closer to the ravages of the pandemic than other people. This disturbed her in many ways, and her mental state caused her to express her distress and feelings in her writings. Most of her writing from those days had to do with the pandemic and her experiences. The writing helped her find some semblance of order in the chaos and gave her happiness and peace of mind. But gradually, as time passed, she returned to her fiction. From short stories, she went on long ones, and finally, she wrote a book.
Also Read: How to Write a Book?
Advice for Young Girls
Shalini advises all young girls to never give up on their financial independence, even if it is very little. And to have that independence, every girl needs to be educated.
She also feels that girls should get married for the right reason, when they want to and not when others want them to. They should never give in to any pressure for this. Marriage should happen when they are ready physically, emotionally and financially. Marriage is a decision that will have long-lasting consequences; therefore, she advises girls to not rush into it.
Shalini also advises young girls to learn to recognise stereotyping and misogyny. She believes it is essential because patriarchy is embedded in our psyches, and we may sometimes not realise we are a party to it. Therefore, Shalini advises girls to question and understand the reason behind their actions before doing anything.
She also urges girls to call out if they see something unfair and discriminatory. By doing that, they will do themselves and women in general a huge favour. But for that, it is first essential to recognise and understand it.
Also Read: 10 Reasons Women Make Great Leaders
Can A Woman Have It All?
Shalini answered this question with a counter question. She wanted to know why only women have to answer such a question. Why don’t men ever get asked that?
She feels the initial thought behind this premise was to empower women and encourage them to leave their homes and get to the workplace, but society has given it a different connotation. It is associated with a woman being a superwoman who can take care of everything from work, family, and children to home. She feels this is unfair as it puts unnecessary pressure on women to manage everything, which can get overwhelming. Therefore, we should stop normalising the having-it-all syndrome.
What a woman wants should be her decision and not dictated by others. She should be able to decide what her all is and work toward it. Her all cannot be a mix of all duties and responsibilities imposed on her by society. Instead, it should consist of everything that gives her solace and happiness. And if we were to measure them all using this yardstick, then going by a woman’s ability to multitask, most women can get it all.