Shalini Singh is a talented writer and lawyer from India. She has a BSc LLB(Hons) & Master’s of Law (LLM) from Gujarat National Law University, a top University of Law. Shalini Singh is a published author (Prose -poetry genre who writes Fiction) with an association with many publishers and authors as a book reviewer, editor, and media consultant.
She has published many legal and nonlegal articles and worked with various media houses. The lawyer’s work has been published or is forthcoming in The Nation, Outlook India, LitGleam, Kitaab, Poetically, The Spectacle, and Tofu Ink Press, amongst others. Being a reviewer and an author, having published her prose poetry book, ‘Confessions of a Turophile.’ Shalini Singh has also walked on the tightrope as a contributor to the literary world. The lawyer was recently Longlisted for 20 Under 30 South Asia.
The lawyer is very hard working and dedicated to her work. She believes in having confidence and self-esteem against all the challenges. ICY Tales is in conversation with Shalini Singh about her journey and how she shaped her career towards becoming a lawyer and writer.
Q) Which is your favourite Fiction and why?
Shalini Singh – The first Fiction which impacted me as a child was John Grisham’s The Runaway Jury, which showed me how impactful a good fictional story could be, and a lot of good Fiction contains a lot of non-fiction too.
Hence, I believe that Fiction is made much better by having non-fictitious elements or experiences of the author themself, which mixes up with what many people say in a real-life story. People tell inconspicuously, which means it is an adage to a reader to see into a world that is imaginative but also impactable and urgent and teaches you many things.
I have learned the craft of writing Fiction from authors like Arundhati Roy, Jhampa Lahiri, and Siddhartha Mukherjee. Also, from all the books that I have read till now, I would say that I have read equal numbers of fictional and non-fictional books. Even non-fictional books remain a non-superior genre.
These people have an amazing way of putting down proof. And I am currently reading a fictional biography by The Father Of LSD. The Rose Of Paracelsus is hand-written on paper in the US prison where Leonard Pickard is imprisoned for conspiracy to manufacture LSD. It was written by a non-writer who did not have any writing mentoring. However, still, he writes like someone who has mastered the world of writing, and it also stems from the fact that he has a very rich educational background and his rich experiences in life made him write like that.
So, I believe that Fiction is interwoven in every moment. As a writer and reader, I need to find and save it through what would be non-fiction and maybe even lyricism. There are so many contemporary fictional fiction writers whom I admire. I am trying to read more fictional lyricism and poetic prose texts to get a better hold of my contemporaries.
Q) Talk to us about your work schedule and what pushes you to work harder every day?
Shalini Singh – Since I was a child, I did not take any pocket money from my parents. They only paid for the fees of my university and my law school, which I believed was an excellent place to cultivate habits and manners and the way of writing, which is important in a legal fraternity. Working in the legal field, you need to be perfect with your formatting with how you write your grammar.
My working schedule is very varied. I don’t follow a routine, but I try to complete the tasks I have in mind. So every morning, I plan out the task I need to complete and do that, and then I go ahead with my day and do things as they come to me. So I believe my English improved with each project, dissertation, and case law I worked on.
I watch many documentaries and listen to podcasts while reading for at least 6 hours daily. Even now, while I shifted to the US from India, my routine hasn’t changed much. I feel that working in the US with Lowa State as an Assistant Professor in English. I have more time to do what I want.
I want to write without demystifying my life back at home, so what pushes me to work harder are the people in my country, the poverty, and the collective hardships I have seen amongst the people I love. My parents struggled and sacrificed a lot to see me where I am. I believe that it is their good karma as well as their nurturing which makes me Capricorn rising and a Capricorn moon to work hard.
Q) Who are your favourite poets and authors, and what do you like in them?
Shalini Singh – I believe I have many favourite poets. Some of them I admire a lot is Romeo Oriogun, who is going to be one of my poetry professors next year around. He writes brilliant poetic forms. I used to love Sarojini Naidu; I believe she was a brilliant poet. Her poem concerns her motherland, mother, wounds, relationships, place of being, space, and time.
Pablo Neruda has taught me how delicate poetry can be. There is Debra Marquart, the poet noble laureate for lowa state in the USA. She is going to teach me again next year. Her words are so charging and challenging, and I can not wait to learn from her. But apart from that, there are poets like Kanika Agrawal, who is doing her MFA at Purdue University, or Gauri Awasthi, who graduated from Mcneese University, and her poems are so simple. Yet, profound Joy Priest is a force to be reckoned with.
But so integrated, I like the poetic forms poets from different countries present to you. I also love old folk poetry and poetic forms which are yet to be deciphered like the Egyptian’s ancient poems. That is one of my work areas where I would like to translate the Hieroglyphs symbolism to English, Hindi, and Gujrati, and I want to do that someday.
Chen-Chen is one of the amazing poets who gave me a lot of inciting, not only to me but to many other writers and poets. I believe there are writers, poets, and teachers like Yani and Chen Chen who have given so much of their time and art to their readers and writers like me to understand the craft rather than glorify themselves.
As a writer and a reader, it isn’t easy to be light and good at it. They haven’t been glorified because, in that process, people associate with them. Many people are absolutely nuts, and they don’t fall into any form or type, and still, they do not care if the audience likes them or not, which is hard to come by.
Q) Any favourite or aspiring lines from any book you have yet to read that you want to share?
Shalini Singh – I would tell myself – but my younger self would not believe me – that everything I thought mattered, none of that matters. The only thing that matters is writing. In other words, writing is the key to my happiness. But when we’re young, we’re searching for many other keys.
I think I’ve said this much more eloquently in an essay, but if the only thing you need to be happy about is writing, then you’ve got it. You’re looking for love, a job, money, attention, whatever you’re looking for, you already have it if you have something that completely satisfies you in the Now.
The aspiring lines are life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and being alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You have to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, betrayed, left, hurt, or death brushes too near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.
Q) What do you think the future entails for you?
Shalini Singh – When I started to prepare for my MFA Master in Fine Arts, I had the only goal on my mind: to better my writing craft and learn as much as possible from everybody around me, even people I thought I could not have learned from. I have started seeing the various ways in which my craft can grow in places that are just void or don’t have much substance in them.
The future will entail a lot of writing, which I want to accomplish in the next three years here in Iowa. I am onto participate in readings, take mutual works, and do a bunch of activities like astronomy, learn advanced astrology, and chart body graphics. I guess these are the doing things, workshops, meetings of poets and writers, and internsh.
Where I could see myself working, taking up space as a freelancer and being professional enough to see her worth now is the future. I don’t think about the future a lot now, which is a relief because once you stop looking ahead, you are living in the moment, which is more important than the past or the future.
Q) What were the challenges you faced at the beginning of your career as a lawyer and a writer?
Shalini Singh – I am the black sheep in my family. I was the only person to take up law and study and practice it. I did corporate law, environmental laws, and a lot of civil work and even criminal investigations. I sat in many disciplinary proceedings.
I worked with the ministry, lawyers, and with judges. I did 13 internships in my law school, which I believe was one of the higher marks because nobody had done that many internships. 13 is a lucky number for me because I got 13 acceptances. I got 13 universities that accepted me.
In law, you require a lot of rote learning. It would help if you mugged up things, remembered a lot, and concentrated on particular niches I couldn’t find as a lawyer. As a lawyer, I didn’t struggle much, apart from having some bad or exploitative experiences where I could see that the Indian Judiciary and the legal fraternity were not up to the mark for me or would accept me as a creative personality.
It is very important to have a niche, and I believe that if you hold onto what you want to do with your life as a lawyer, please go ahead and study law. Otherwise, I think the things I took from the law would be different for somebody else who studies it, so the struggles would be different for everyone. I believe whatever you study or do, you have struggles. You have to cope with it regardless of them.
I believe writing, for me, is a form of rebelling. And as a writer, it is a struggle when you talk about writing, presenting, criticizing, selling, and even thinking about writing. It all constitutes the form of struggles with which I started to disassociate myself. For instance, not having a routine is a rebellion. It will all be a struggle and challenge, which is what I am all about.
Q) What do you share with youngsters aspiring to become lawyers in the future? And what made you pursue a career in the legal field?
Shalini Singh – When I was deciding to become a lawyer. Five days after my AIEEE to give CLAT, the common law entrance test everyone in India has to give, I got in a couple of NLUs. I got into GNLU, which is Gujrat National Law University, one of the top 5 ranked law universities in India, and if you want a future in law, you don’t need to be from NLU. Still, I think it makes a lot of difference to belong to good institutions because you get that crowd around you and the kind of mentorship that may not be available easily in other institutions.
It is also about the resources that help you. GNLU had a lot of good resources, national and international, and we participated in many international moot court models united nations. Every subject has an interrelation with law, so I believe you can do much interdisciplinary work on law. It is a great medium for anyone who wants to pursue the field of interrelated fields later on. But studying law can be very damning. You can do so much while studying law, and law is in every field.
It can be tough on you if you don’t have guidance or if you don’t have contacts because I have seen that in India. Many things work with references and contacts but also, if you know how to seek knowledge and apply it logically. Analytically, you can become a good lawyer, and to all the youngsters out there, please try to see the various fields your parents or people around you don’t know about. It is not just limited to the law.
Look up anthropology, archaeology, and fields for which we don’t have substance and don’t have the resources. You will never know where you will go with that. So try to find out what you like and where you are good at. If you are good at writing, reading, and speaking, I think the law is a great medium.
Q) Tell us about your work experience on the tightrope as a contributor to the literary world.
Shalini Singh – I believe I have so much more that I could contribute. In terms of contribution, making somebody else think or learn a skill set or help somebody out with their lives with their thoughts is what contributes worth calling it a contribution.
So whatever I am writing, reading, or talking about, if it does not invoke a thought or few sensibilities in you, then my job is not done as a contributor to the literal world. Anybody who comes in contact with me needs that person to take away things that are enlightening and good for both of us or just a takeaway in general that enriches our experiences.
Q) Why did you choose to be a book reviewer? What pushes you to do this?
Shalini Singh – When I published my prose-poetry book, Confessions of a Turophile, in 2018, I started reviewing books because I had a lot of time. I was on a kind of sabbatical. I had less work and more hours and was already reading a lot, so I thought, why not utilize that?
Why not produce something? I believe reviewing is hard work and takes a lot of time. It also requires skills, plus you need to have an audience; otherwise, you are not a reviewer, which is the hard part. Because anybody can review, and tons of kids were doing it and doing it wrong.
There are ways in which you will review wrong, and I believe their community doesn’t understand the value of a good and bad review. I believe that I can not criticize a debut or an author who doesn’t have the kind of mentorship may be Arundhati or Margaret Atwood did.
So, I did not compare every new author and writer to J. K. Rowling. My thing as a reviewer is to concentrate on the good parts that a book can bring out rather than bash a book or say something negative. I believe every book has unique capabilities and visions, which are different in that sense. If you look at it as a whole, you will find many things you can discuss.
Shalini Singh, currently a first-year MFA candidate at Iowa State University, USA, is a very patient person in her life. She believes in spreading information through her writing skills, poems, and book reviews. You can read her writings and works here http://linktr.ee/belladonnaoflavender.