Breaking fast with Madam Jurina
Four hours before it was time to break fast, Madam Jurina Johari was already hard at work in her kitchen preparing nasi lemak.
It's a simple fare - no fried chicken or fish, just rice cooked in coconut milk, sambal tumis with ikan bilis, cucumber slices and egg.
"We're not well to-do. We live and cook simply, make do with the bare minimum and have to be thrifty," Madam Jurina, 42, told The New Paper at her one-room rental flat in Sembawang.
She lives with her two sons - a 22-year-old who is doing his national service and a 21-year-old who has autism - and her 60-year-old mother.
Gesturing towards her younger son Muhammad Shahirul Junadi, Madam Jurina said: "My son asked me once, 'Mama, can we have chicken, please?' I had no choice but to tell him we can buy it when, God-willing, we have extra money in the future. We can't always give in to our whims and fancies and eat whatever we want.
"We have to budget. For us, parting with $100 is like forking out $500. "
She last allowed her son that 'indulgence' a week ago when she bought some chicken. But she tried to ration the packet of frozen chicken for as long as possible.
Madam Jurina's family have long accepted their plight and are content with eating simple meals like rice and butter with soy sauce and egg.
TNP first spoke to Madam Jurina, a two-time divorcee, when she was robbed of $50 back in April.
It was the last of the money she had for that week. Money she needed to feed her sons.
The amount can tide the family over for about three days.
Madam Jurina depends on the alimony she receives from both her ex-husbands, donations from well-wishers and social aid.
The alimony amounts come up to about $600 but are not regular and the amount, fixed, she said.
Ms Chin Tong Mui, general manager of Social Service Office at Sembawang told TNP that officers from the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Social Service Office (SSO) at Sembawang visited Madam Jurina after TNP's story last month.
She said that they are providing Madam Jurina’s family with financial assistance for rental, utilities, as well as service and conservancy charges from June to November 2016.
Ms Chin added: "We are working closely with social workers from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore to explore alternative care arrangements for Mdm Jurina’s younger son. We have also referred her to Sembawang Family Service Centre to help her better cope with her personal, social and emotional challenges.”
Madam Jurina, who has been a kidney patient for the past 25 years, was forced to quit her job as a part-time assistant pharmacist just before Ramadan when her mother, Madam Rabiah Salim, could not cope on her own caring for Mr Muhammad Shahirul. She was earning $7 per hour.
Madam Jurina is used to a life filled with ups and downs.
She worries for her own health, although she would rarely seek treatment for health issues.
Madam Jurina has been struggling with chronic kidney disease since she was 17 — she had her right kidney removed eight years later.
She said that have told her she requires treatment but she cannot afford the medical expenses. Medicine for herself and monthly check-ups for her mother, who is diabetic and has heart problems, would amount to $1,000 each month. She has stopped taking her medication as it is money she cannot afford, Madam Jurina said.
At times, she would find blood in her urine but not see a doctor as she fears that being hospitalised would mean she cannot take care of her mother and autistic son.
When money was especially tight, the family spent a day of Ramadan in darkness after their electricity supply was cut off temporarily last year.
But despite the hurdles in life, staying strong is the only way she knows how.
"I live for my family. If you think you have a hard life, there are others out there surviving without their limbs. I am already lucky," she said.
With only herself to rely on, the resourceful mother always finds means to provide for her family the best way she can.
"When the FairPrice supermarket nearby wants to throw away their older stock of chicken and vegetables to make way for new ones, the shop assistants will ask if I want them. I'm not fussy. As long as they are still in good condition, I will take them," said Madam Jurina.
At 6pm, Madam Jurina started preparing for iftar, setting two small, foldable bed trays on the floor.
Iftar is a simple meal of nasi lemak, placed on foldable trays. TNP PHOTO: NOOR ASHIKIN ABDUL RAHMAN
They serve as tables on which she places the food. Cups of drinks are placed on top of pots on the stove due to lack of space.
Iftar, or breaking fast, was a quiet affair with only Madam Jurina and her younger son. Her mother typically breaks fast at the nearby Assyafaah Mosque, where she will stay on to perform the nightly terawih prayers while her older son, Mr Muhammad Shafiee, was still in camp.
When the call to prayer was heard, Mr Muhammad Shahirul slid across the floor towards the tables and sat before his mother, palms outstretched to recite prayer with her before eating.
With Hari Raya fast approaching next week, Madam Jurina yearns to give her sons the best.
"I long to bring them shopping for new clothes so badly. My needs are secondary, what's important are my kids. I can make do with a $30 outfit from a pasar malam, but I want to give them something special. My sons are my everything," said Madam Jurina, tears welling in her eyes.