Rohini Rau, a senior resident officer at Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, is also a sailor, a health researcher and a stage-lighting expert. Rohini juggles many hats when it comes to her professional choices.

As the daughter of the founder of Little Theatre, Ayesha Rau, Rohini recalls watching her mother do the balancing act too. “I saw my mom doing the same and perhaps thought that it was the norm," she says. Her mother, Ayesha, was a qualified marine biologist who chose to switch careers to copywriting and then founded the Little Theatre, synonymous with children’s theatre in Chennai.

The master choice

As a child, Rohini divided her days between academics, music, dance, horse riding and sailing. The schedule of activities was never overwhelming but a time did come when Rohini had to choose to play to her strengths. “After I did all these activities for almost 10 years, I realized I needed to focus on fewer things to actually make a mark. Thus, I chose sailing," she says.

Rohini won the gold in the Asian Sailing Championship at the age of 17 in 2004. But she wanted to do more and decided to join medical school on the sports quota. The rigour, however, of becoming a doctor never slowed her down. “It was assumed that I would stop pursuing my sport and concentrate only on medicine. But being the person I am, I couldn’t do that. I participated in seven championships during my first year of MBBS," she says.

In terms of deciding which was more important, Rau always chose to strike a balance. “It was imperative that I did justice to both. So, I alternated between the two. But I won’t lie, it was hard. I almost quit medicine thrice and took eight years to complete my MBBS. But I believe if you want something that bad you will make time for it and you will make it happen," she says.

Eventually, she had to let go of sailing. It was not an easy decision though. “I was hit by a lot of politics and unfairness from the federation during my sailing career, but I was grateful to be able to overcome most of it as I had other alternatives and I was good at other things. I stopped sailing after the 2012 Olympic Games trials and National Championship, where I finished fourth overall," she says.


After 15 years of sailing, Rohini moved on to start the Chennai Hub of the Global Shapers Community and became the curator of this World Economic Forum initiative. All the while she continues to work as a doctor too. She is also a health researcher for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project in Angola, Africa, and a facilitator for Human Centered Design at summits across Asia and Africa with MIT D-Labs, Engineers Without Borders, Australia, and International Development Design Summit (IDDS). “As one of the Global Talents at UNLEASH 2018, our team won the ‘Gender Equality Award’ from the President of Singapore. I have become a TED fellow and spoken at events in India and abroad. I have acted in theatre shows and become a theatre lighting executioner for shows by The Little Theatre in India and abroad," says Rohini.

When opportunities present themselves, Rohini finds it hard to walk away without at least trying once. Being busy is never an excuse not to try new things because she believes that the only people who don’t have time are the ones who do nothing with their time.

Balancing act

While some may say that sailing and her research are passions and not real professions, Rohini disagrees, “I don’t believe there is a difference. With sailing, I was supported by the government, sponsors and family, so I was as professional as possible within the limits of everything around me. Yes, I do earn as a doctor and researcher, but I have the support of the hospital for taking time off to go for my various ventures."

Both careers consume a fair amount of time but Rohini has always maintained that if you want to do something, you will make it happen. “In an unknown future where we don’t know if we will have the jobs we have today, we need to arm ourselves with many skills to be able to adapt, be more relevant and not be left behind." This fuels her to try new things, upgrade her skills and keep learning.

People who balance multiple profiles are seen as Jack-of-all-Trades, but Rohini feels that kind of thought process is very negative. “Don’t let anyone make you feel that way. You can learn so much from doing different things ," she says.

I Lead a Double Life looks at individuals who balance two or more professions and how they do it.