Born without limbs, but she lives life to fullest
Grit and grace - two qualities Ms Nur Madiah Hidayah Lim Othman has in abundance.
They shine through when she goes about her daily tasks and prepares for work.
They inspire us as she turns the mundane into acts of determination and resilience.
Like the way she deftly coats her lashes with mascara or touches up her face with powder.
Ms Nur Madiah, 34, was born with no limbs. In place of her upper arms are boneless appendages that she has grown quite adept at using, be it eating, rummaging through her bag or wallet, or typing on the phone.
"It all comes naturally to me," she said with a smile.
Ms Nur Madiah is part of a social project called Happyers, which aims to help people with disability be employable through new equipment and technology.
Started by Mr John Chang, the group is trying to raise money to buy her a motorised wheelchair. Ms Nur Madiah, the first beneficiary of the project, currently uses a motorised wheelchair she borrows from a friend.
A typical day for Ms Nur Madiah starts at 7.30am, when she wakes up. By 9am, she is ready to leave her Teban Gardens Road flat for the KFC call centre at Toa Payoh, where she works as a call operator taking delivery orders.
She needs to take a bus and a train to complete the 1½-hour journey to her workplace. This may be routine for most of us, but for her, it is a challenge.
The nearest bus stop is a five-minute walk for most people. But for Ms Nur Madiah, she takes double the time as she takes a wheelchair-friendly path, expertly controlling her motorised wheelchair each time she makes a turn.
Flagging and boarding a bus is not a problem as most buses are fitted with ramps.
Once Ms Nur Madiah reaches Jurong East MRT station, she is greeted by a group of friendly SMRT ground staff. They help lift her wheelchair up the train as there is a gap between the platform and the train.
Amid friendly banter with the SMRT staff, Ms Nur Madiah told TNP: "I meet them so often that we're like friends now."
She then eases into one of the priority seats on the train and takes a short nap before she reaches Toa Payoh station, from which her workplace is a 15-minute walk away.
ASK FOR HELP
Ms Nur Madiah recalled falling out of her wheelchair on two occasions a few months ago when she tried to board the train alone.
"I didn't know I could ask for help then. I was afraid that if I asked, they would brush me aside," she said.
"Luckily, the members of the public were quite nice. They helped me back up."
Her desire to not miss out on life's experiences (she got married in 2004 and divorced in 2013) comes from the way she was raised.
"When I was young, I refused to meet people. Everywhere I went, I would hide in the car. I think I realised I was different from others," she said quietly.
When she was seven, she went to the Rainbow Centre at Margaret Drive, a school which helps young people with special needs.
Recalling the days when she would wail at the prospect of going to school, Ms Nur Madiah conceded that she initially hated her mother, Madam Halimah Sali, for being pushy.
"My mum didn't like the way I was, hiding from people everywhere we went, so she forced me to go to school. Even when I cried, she just left me in the school and went home," she said.
"She kept pushing me to meet more people, which was really difficult. But I slowly grew more confident because of that."
After spending close to two years at Margaret Drive, Madam Halimah got her daughter into Alexandra Hill Primary School. A year later, Ms Nur Madiah was transferred to Jin Tai Primary School, which was closer to home.
She said she went through "rites of passage" just like other teenagers.
"I think I've lived a complete teenage life. I've gone pubbing and clubbing!" she said with a laugh.
Back then, still in a regular wheelchair donated by the Community Chest, she relied on friends like Ms Fazilah Abdul Aziz, 31, to take her to places.
Ms Fazilah said her friend was initially quiet but "now, she talks to people voluntarily and is even more daring than me".
Now, Ms Nur Madiah splits her time between work five to six days a week, and going out with friends.
Despite her positivity, there are moments when Ms Nur Madiah would dwell on her disability and ask herself: "Why do things turn out this way?"
"But you just have to be strong. I'll just try to be positive again," she said.
I think I've lived a complete teenage life. I've gone pubbing and clubbing!
- Ms Nur Madiah Hidayah Lim Othman