Exclusive: Actress Shikha Malhotra “A fighter since childhood, now a frontline warrior against COVID-19”

“It is difficult to see life and death every other day, come back home and be ready to go back the next day with the same smile. But you have to motivate yourself. You cannot give up,” actress Shikha Malhotra who volunteered to work as a nurse at Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital in Mumbai in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is difficult to see life and death every other day, come back home and be ready to go back the next day with the same smile. But you have to motivate yourself. You cannot give up,” actress Shikha Malhotra who volunteered to work as a nurse at Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital in Mumbai in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic had so much confidence and determination in her voice while saying this.

Speaking exclusively to the Business Upturn on her journey to becoming an actor and a nurse, she has a motivational story to share. A story filled with years of struggle and facing challenges in the face of adversity. Ms Malhotra was an all-rounder since childhood until she fell sick at the age of 12 paralysing her body for almost 2 years. She speaks of the fight she had to put up against the pain, awkwardness and instances of demotivation, criticisms, teasing etc. from various quarters of the society. Despite this she says, “I believe that all these struggles have helped me become a better version. I became what I am now because of the rare challenges that God has given me and the constant support and motivation by my parents.”

Working as a nurse at the isolation ward without accepting a salary might be unimaginable for many but Shikha says that she wanted to utilise her education as a B.Sc (Hons.) Nursing graduate and serve the country when it needs people like her the most. But at the same time acknowledges the fact that nurses aren’t paid what they deserve in comparison to the service they provide and says that the government should take some steps in this regard.

Talking about her career as an actress, she says, “I never wanted to enter the film industry in a glamour role. I always wanted to be a performer,” and believes that her debut movie ‘Kaanchli’ has given her such a start. She hopes that the film gets released on a good OTT platform soon as it was previously rejected by many because of her being a new face. She also comments on the current situation of Bollywood, saying that the standard has lowered in many aspects and that new faces are being sidelined. “Nepotism becomes a problem when you gang up and prevent other talented people from entering,” says Shikha. “I want to work with intellectual directors who value performance. I want to give something to society, to the people and not work with people who make the same kind of films.”

She then goes on to share the difficulties of working as a nurse in this current scenario in PPEs for long hours without having food, water and rest, along with medications which give dizziness. “It becomes especially difficult during the menstrual cycles for women. Added to this is the threat of getting infected and discrimination that we have to face from society because of the fear. We must fight against the disease and not the patients. This can happen to anyone and such mentality is really sick,” she says.

Despite these difficulties she has had many a good moment in the ward, treating patients such as 7-month-old Mohammad and 88-year-old Charulata. “I try to make the patients as cheerful as possible by talking, singing and making them comfortable. In fact, I celebrated Rakhi, Ganesh Chathurthi and even put ‘Mehendi’ on my gloves,” she says with a laugh. “I got promoted as a patient councillor soon due to this reason.” She added.

Commenting on the level of satisfaction as an actress and a nursing officer, she says “When people see you on the screen, that’s not you actually. They don’t know what your real self is. But being a nursing officer, you are in touch in with and they accept and love you the way you are. The blessing that I have got in these past 5 months, would not have been possible otherwise. But I feel that lucky I became an actor too as it serves as a gateway towards the public. But I will be a nurse for my whole life even if I don’t work in hospitals regularly. Wherever I am, I will be totally attentive as a nurse” and goes on to narrate incidents wherein she has treated her crew members who fell sick during the shooting. “But I have to get back to becoming an actor because I wish to utilise that medium to tell a lot of things. So I want to choose wise scripts and perform.”

She concludes by saying that humanity is the only religion and God has made us support, help and nourish each other. “Whatever you are, there may be many people behind you supporting you in the journey. Try to give back to society.”