“Beautiful, moving and thought-provoking… deals with some really difficult issues but with a lightness of touch and honesty that makes her story very compelling” – Katy W
At 21, Shalini Bhalla knew where she was heading in life.
Born into a successful Indian family in Kenya, Shalini – at university in England – was preparing to one day take over the family business. Everything was mapped out… until she met and fell in love with her English neighbour, Jeremy. Then her world turned upside down.
For the first time in her life she found herself at odds with her parents and was faced with an agonising choice: to follow her heart or to submit to her parents’ wishes.
Shalini’s decision would take her on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery – one that took in family estrangement, severe depression, spiritual and physical renewal, devastating loss and, finally, hope.
Always With You is the gripping and inspiring story of one woman who found the strength and courage to carve out her own path…
Above all it is a testament to the power of love.
“It made me smile, it made me laugh out loud and it made me cry. A book written from the heart” – Mrs H M Woodley
About the Author
Shalini Bhalla-Lucas is an award-winning author, entrepreneur, speaker, teacher/trainer and the founder of Just Jhoom! – a Bollywood-inspired dance-fitness programme, with classes available nationwide. She is also an accredited Mindfulness and Meditation teacher – teaching people highly-effective, proven techniques to help combat stress, anxiety and depression. She is currently training to be an End of Life Doula.
Shalini has performed all over the world and has had TV appearances on ITV’s Daybreak, Channel 4s Sunday Brunch and the BBC, as well as on numerous radio stations. She has been featured in publications such as RED magazine, Top Sante and Dance Today, discussing dance and Just Jhoom! but has also been called upon to discuss how she beat depression with dance, meditation and mindfulness.
As a result, of being so open about her depression, Shalini was chosen to be one of ten people in the country to be a “Voice of MIND” – campaigning for better mental health provision in the UK, and has spoken in the Houses of Parliament to MPs about wellbeing and resilience to Mental Health problems as well as on a roundtable discussion for the Huffington Post and at the IAPT Therapist Convention 2015.
Shalini’s first book, “Always With You – A true story of love, loss…and hope” was published in July 2018. In October of that year it became a No 1 Amazon Bestseller.
“Online Dating @ 40 – The Nobheads, Nutjobs & Nice Guys” Shalini’s second book was published in February 2019.
There is a rabbit in my garden eating my freshly planted flowers! I watched, outraged, from the upstairs window of my new home as a very fat white rabbit hopped around my lawn, helping himself to all the new flowers I’d planted just the day before – a riot of brightly-coloured wallflowers, pansies and camellias. The cheek of the thing!
I raced downstairs and out onto the lawn to get a better look at my unwelcome visitor. I know practically nothing about gardening but I’d done my best in the last few days to make the place look a little better than when I’d moved in a few weeks before in early February. The garden had looked pretty bleak back then but as the weeks passed, the winter frost loosened its grip and hopeful buds of spring began to poke through the ends of bare branches. I had arrived in the UK the previous year, in September 1996, and the long, cold English winter had come as a real shock to me. The dark nights drawing in so early, the cold damp that seemed to penetrate my bones, bitter winds that made breathing difficult and the greyness that seemed to pervade everything. It was a far cry from the warmth, sunshine and colour of Kenya – my home – and a strong feeling of homesickness had gripped me throughout the winter. But my mood had begun to lift as the pretty cherry blossoms emerged on the trees along our street and the sun enticed small flowers from bulbs in the ground. It was enough to tempt me into a garden centre with the aim of cheering up my own garden. I knew little about plants, other than what I thought looked nice. So, I filled a trolley with the most colourful and healthy-looking flowers I could find, learning their names from the plastic labels at the front of the post; invested in a trowel and some compost and got to work on the beds, digging up weeds, removing stones and planting an eclectic mix of flowers. Hours later, I sat back on my heels to admire my work. Not bad for a girl who had never attempted gardening before!
Now, I was dismayed to see that most of the flower heads had been chewed off and a good many leaves sported tell-tale nibbled edges. I sighed. My mother would have been so proud to know I was giving our house a makeover. An astute businesswoman, it was her idea to buy this place, 15 Miller Road, on the outskirts of Guildford in Surrey. While I studied for my masters in Tourism Education at the University of Surrey, my mother decided to invest in the UK property market – and provide a place for me to live at the same time. We agreed that she would put down the deposit and buy the house and I would be responsible for the mortgage and bills while I lived in it. Then, when I was due to return to Kenya to join the family business, we would sell up and both profit from the joint investment.
My mother was herself a wonderful gardener, filling the beds in our garden at home with dozens of sweet-smelling roses. There was no competition to be had there, I thought miserably. Where had this rabbit come from? It was still there, barely giving me a second glance as it sat on his well-fed haunches, munching through my garden with impunity. I peered over the fence to my neighbour’s garden on one side – no clues there. Then I walked to the other side, where I looked over and saw a couple of young girls, aged about 10 or 11, playing with two rabbits. Aha! In the corner was a large homemade hutch, which was clearly where my hungry friend belonged. The girls were engrossed with the other two rabbits and didn’t seem to have noticed that the third had escaped.
Who were they? I racked my brains for the answer. I had met several of my neighbours already and some had introduced themselves to me when I first arrived. But I hadn’t met this one yet… what was his name again? A divorcee, he lived on his own and his name was… Jerry? Or Jeremy? I remembered that he had three daughters who came to stay on the weekends when I often heard them playing in the garden.
The sun was shining and a warm breeze rustled the trees outside so I didn’t bother putting on a coat. I just slipped on my Kenyan bata slippers and left the latch on while I walked up the path to Jerry/Jeremy’s front door. His front garden, I noticed, was beautifully tended. He must be a pretty good gardener, I thought, admiring the attractive tulips and colourful rock garden. The rabbit clearly hadn’t found its way to the front of the house yet. I rang the doorbell.
In a matter of seconds, the door swung open to reveal a striking-looking man with piercing blue eyes that perfectly matched his crisply ironed shirt.
“Hello?” his voice was both deep and soft at the same time. It had a smooth, pillowy quality. For a second I completely forgot why I was there. Wow! Those eyes!
Instinctively I smiled and he smiled back – a broad, handsome grin which lit up is whole face. My stomach did a little somersault and I had to fight the urge to giggle. My goodness! What’s going on? The whole reason for my visit suddenly seemed utterly absurd.
“Hello,” I finally managed to blurt out. “Hello. I’m your new neighbor, Shalini. I moved in a few weeks ago.”
“Oh yes,” he grinned again and nodded. “Hello Shalini – lovely to meet you. I’m Jeremy.”
He put out his hand to shake and when I offered him mine, he grasped it firmly and pumped my arm up and down a couple of times. His grip was strong and firm and his hands, warm. How very English, I thought.
“An exquisite love story… There is so much in this book – Love, humour, faith, family, grief, loss, hope but love and hope are the most enduring. I cannot recommend this book enough. Whatever you are going through, you will be deeply moved.” – Cheeku