All posts by KavinsMom

About KavinsMom

Being a mom came as a surprise, right after I had an arranged marriage. Most of the time, I've tried to be a 'GoWithTheFlow' mom. Marriage brought migration to Singapore, and being Kavin's mom has given me a chance to explore Singapore as a kid . I hope my blog gives you joy, as we record our wacky adventures, quiet times, and honest fails . - still figuring out Kavin'sMom

fireman singapore

Fireman Kavin – trip to the fire station

The bright red truck, yellow hard hat, black boots, not to mention the fire suits and smoke masks – haven’t we all had that fantasy play. Being a fire fighter had been an alluring prospective career as a child . Playground imaginary play included sliding down the pole crying out – ” Fire fighter to the rescue ! “.18251395_120131855209693_8337463933166157824_n(1)

Kavin has been quite familiar with the whole fire fighting thing thanks to our neighborhood walks, when almost every time he stops at the fire hydrants and starts to animatedly explain the purpose of their existence . These encounters, toy fire trucks at play areas, Tayo the bus fire fighting episodes – all seemed to have kindled enough interest in him. Two weeks ago he built a lego fire truck ( or at least that is what he called it ) . Childhood memories came flooding back . I remember Amma and Appa taking me and my brother to a fire station cum museum . I can never forget that trip mostly because I came sliding down the fire pole in shorts, which resulted in scalding the flesh on my inner thigh. I couldn’t walk for the next two days. ūüôā

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Fingers crossed, hoping Singapore would have some kind of fire station visit, I turned to Google. I was pleasantly surprised with the Singapore Civil Defense Force ( SCDF) website.

SCDF FireStation Visit Details

There were fire station open houses every Saturday . The visitation is very straight forward .

  • Every Saturday 9 – 11 is open house at all fire stations island wide ¬†except ¬†(
    1. Banyan Fire Station
    2. Jurong Island Fire Station
    3. Tuas Fire Station
    4. Tuas View Fire Station
    5. West Coast Marine Fire Station 
    6. Brani Marine Fire Station
    7. Sentosa Fire Station )
  • Group visitation with 10 members or more requires 2 week advance registration
  • Groups less than 10 can walk – in . NO pre registration required
  • It is open to all Singapore residents( citizen, PR, foreigner) , tourists included
  • It’s Free

We chose to visit the Central Fire Station, mainly because of the allure of the red brick building. I’ll be honest, there is a lot of information on the SDFC website – I was a bit confused about the different exhibits they were talking about . We went in expecting to see the fire station,but ¬†we were surprised with a few other experiences . So to be clear, there are 4 different things you get to do at the Central Fire Station . This is ONLY at the Central Fire Station, all other fire stations just have the Saturday ( 9 AM – 11 AM) open house session .

Here you go Fire Station Attractions as explained by the SDFC website . I mention this link here, because first time round, I never navigated to this page. We got to see only the Emergency Preparedness Center , Fire Station and The Heritage Gallery. The Tower is accessible only on Tuesdays and Fridays ( 7 PM Р8 PM ) , and children below 1.2 m are not allowed .

Okay ,  now to get thing straight :

  1. Island wide Fire Station Open houses  РSaturday ( 9 AM Р11 AM )
  2. Emergency Preparedness Center Р (Tuesday РFriday) (  10 AM Р5 AM )
  3. Heritage Gallery                               Р ( Tuesday РFriday) (  10 AM Р5 AM )
  4. Tower tour                                         Р ( Tuesday & Friday) ( 7 PM  Р 8 PM )

Note : 2, 3 4 are specific to Central Fire Station

Finally ! Now that the necessities are over, lets get to the niceties.

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The fire fighting demonstration starts on the dot, at 9:00. We missed it . We arrived jut as the crowd was dispersing to see the fire trucks . We did however get full access to see all the fire station vehicles. Kavin’s excitement picked up when a friendly fire fighter handed him a toy plastic helmet . These are free, but be sure to go early, because they are given only till stocks last !

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Bright red fire trucks stood majestically side by side, the fire station also housed smaller fire vans, trucks and even an ambulance . The kids are allowed to hop into the trucks and play fireman. One toddler even managed to pry open the radio pocket, and started hollering messages through the big speakers !

Along the sides of the truck shelter, caged lockers are packed with Р helmets, fireproof suits, boots, smoke masks and gloves. All the  Fire fighters were sporting friendly grins, and answered all our questions . They were down on their knees explaining a smoke mask to Kavin,  another was talking about the hose. Some of them were helping the kids on and off the fire truck . One observation Рthe majority of the kids who had come to see the station were between 2-4 years . I am guessing, older kids have already had a field trip to the station or younger kids are that much more curious about the world.

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After about half an hour of role play, just as I thought Kavin might get bored ( Who am I kidding ? Boys never get bored of trucks, at least this one doesn’t !) , we were in for a treat, the iconic – ‘Fireman down the pole’ demonstration was going to be repeated . I was a bit shocked by the size of the pole though, I mean with the recent exposure to pole dancing, I was imagining something like that . The pole was… ¬†as Kavin pointed out ‘ Water Spout ‘ . Yes ! It was as thick as Incy Wincy Spider’s water spout . The routine was done in style by three firemen in coordination . The kids get to yell ” Fire ! Fire ! “, from below, and they come zipping down thee floors of pole with elan . The was even a midway acrobatics, by stopping at different levels along the pole, entwined only by their legs . Clearly these men are not missing their ‘leg day’ at the gym . ¬†The kids loved this part, the crew even repeated the performance to please the eager toddler faces. One of the fire men, explained how, once they received a call, the entire crew would have to be down by 3 seconds.

We then took notice of a few other things at the station . An in house petrol pump  ( for some reason this impressed my  husband ), an outdoor shower Рmuch like the swimming pool shower, except you pulled on a lever to release water . We had fun taking some pictures with these amazing life savers, and then proceeded to the  The Heritage Gallery .  (The Heritage Gallery and Emergency Preparedness Center are housed in the same building, different floors ) .

The Heritage Gallery has a lovely collection of vintage fire rescue vehicles used from the British Era . Other rescue related antiques, collector toy fire trucks, and medals given to the Singapore fire station adorn the walls. We even found some vintage fire helmets donated by ex – fireman from different countries . Kavin was excited by the ‘firetruck movie’, he clambered into one of the firetrucks on display, were a short video about a Singapore rescue mission is playing . But the most spectacular display, was the recreation of the¬†¬†“Bukit Ho Swee Fire ” of 1961. The plaques read the history of the fire, and the space has been recreated like a burnt down home . We were amused to find, a Milo can on the kitchen shelf ¬†( astonished by the detailing ) and thatch roofs. Did you know the HDB model that exists in Singapore, is the direct result of the fire, and the damage it did to the unstructured illegal housing establishments ? We spent about 30 minutes here, before we stepped into the emergency preparedness center (EPC).

Most of the interactive displays at the EPC seem more age appropriate for older kids who can read . Nevertheless, if you take an effort to guide them through it, there is much to observe and learn. An ambulance scene, an interactive fire fighting, a pencil sketch corner ( Take your own crayons – the pencils are blunt ) – definitely a place to take kids.

I particularly enjoyed the tribute to one of Singapore’s most brilliant rescue dogs, who has apparently been all over the world on rescue missions. The exit leads us to a rather tiny souvenir shop, which sells fire station toys, which is unsurprisingly overpriced, so characteristic of ¬†Singapore .

Do not miss to snap pictures in front of the red building, and with the firemen statue  !

 

 

 

 

Thrift store trails – Salvation Army

Back in India, I would be curled up on our huge bean bag watching these network shows about – ‘Thrift Stores’, ‘Lost Baggage’ and ‘Antiques’. I loved watching these shows, re-runs included. There is always a certain charm to acquire, what was once someone else’s. It is almost like finding treasure . I know many would disagree, and argue that they would rather buy everything new. This post is not for you . Please move on.

After Kavin came into our lives – lazily watching T.V shows are history, much like our T.V ( which for the sake of convenience, remains disconnected) . As a child, I remember frequent trips to Salvation Army when we lived in California. Amma shopped for the family there, I vaguely remember, the American sizes being far too big on her petite frame. I have looked for Salvation Army thrift stores in Chennai,India – but unlike their global counterparts – the Chennai Salvation Army only accepts monetary donations, other donations and seeks volunteers.

Thanks to Kavin, I got a chance to relive my childhood memories. It all started one day, when he tried to squeeze his growing toddler foot, into one of his favorite shoes . “It’s too small Kavin, I think we have to donate it”, I quipped. ” Donate na enna ma? ( What does donate mean)”, ¬†he bounced back . He wasn’t too happy about my explanation. The fact ¬†that someone else would get to wear his shoes now annoyed him, but with a few days of cajoling, he got used to the idea , and anger turned to pride . He couldn’t help, but brag to his grandparents over Facetime – ‘Mr. Benevolent’. ¬†It also made me realize, we had quite a few clothes piling up for donation, and unlike India – where we could always find a deserving soul – I had no clue where to turn . Childhood memories of Salvation Army popped up, along with the fascination for ¬†thrift stores . Two words – Treasure Hunt. ¬†I faintly remembered passing by a Salvation Army on the bus to Bukit Panjang. ¬†Salvation Army ( SA) has many collection centers all around the island :

Salvation Army donation points

Thrift stores are located only at few of the collection centers. A friend of mine also mentioned that  they sometimes organized donation drives, and huge bins would be placed at residential areas.

We chose to explore the biggest thrift store

Praisehaven Mega Family Store

500 Upper Bukit Timah Road Singapore 678106 . Tel: 6349 5312

 Operating Hours:    Monday РThursday, 10am Р6pm Friday РSaturday, 10am Р9pm

because I knew that it was right at the doorstep of the HillView MRT  ( I did not want to walk with those heavy bags and a toddler in tow), and we absolutely love the DOWNTOWN MRT LINE ( BLUE LINE) .IMG_20170419_151827

We left home after lunch and reached the place by 2:30 . Kavin was scampering around my legs , and my first thought was to get rid of the bags . The security officer was quite friendly, and he directed me to the collection point. It is very straighforward. Huge bins line each corner of a small garage, each bin carries a label, of what you’re supposed to drop in . They read :

  • shoes
  • men’s clothing
  • women’s clothing
  • kid’s clothing
  • shoes
  • books
  • electrical goods
  • sports equipment
  • miscellaneous

For furniture – there is a board that points to a huge warehouse . I’m not too sure about the details for furniture donation, but I do know they have a ‘pickup fee’ , they have guidelines of what you can donate, and they do issue a tax benefit receipt. More details on their website ( mentioned above) .

Anyway , the warehouse is where the fun began . The entrance way is a canopy of sorts, with Chinese CDs stacked ceiling to floor on both sides. Unfortunately, I cannot read Chinese, so we skipped this section entirely . Kavin was immediately attracted to the next section . A medly of scooters, bicycles, car seats, cribs, bicycle child seats, baby walkers, baby jungle gyms, bicycle helmets, kiddy toy cars and strollers of every make ¬†called out to him . While Kavin spent time riding about on whatever he coold lay his hands on, I went about inspecting . All of the baby stuff, was in pretty good shape, the prices started from $20 and went up to $120. I wouldn’t say it was a steal, if you compared Carousel or other online forums that sell second hand goods. But this is a one stop shop, and you get a touch and feel of the actual condition of the goods.

I had a hard time dragging Kavin away from the toy cars, ¬†but he was in for a treat at the next stop. The ‘sports goods’ ¬†section- there were skis ( Skis in Singapore – absurd right ? ) , golf clubs, basketballs, soccer balls, foot balls , dumb bells , pogo sticks, roller blades and gym equipment . Kavin was particularly fascinated by the pogo sticks, and reminded me of the penguin with a pogo stick ( painted at the ice skating rink at JCube mall ). You have got to admire the memory of the toddler mind . ūüôā Anyway, it gave me an opportunity to speak to him about skiing, avalanches, snow mountains. I also managed to explain a little about each game ( I know nothing of sports- I’m dreading the day, he finds out ) .

The warehouse basement spreads out to house – beds, bedding, chairs, sofas, wardrobes . These furniture pieces are very tasteful, with a lot of character . I found some really nice sofa sets, for as low as $120. There were also some miscellaneous pieces of art, fish tanks, hangers, mirrors and crockery units . I whizzed through this place, as Kavin was starting to look bored .

The first floor is where all the ‘non-furniture’ stuff is . The entrance is decorated with fancy stone statues – and a really cute Merlion – which Kavin loved . The billing area for the entire complex is at the entrance. There is a huge TV, just across the billing center that plays a montage of Salvation Army activities.

The cashier was the storekeeper et all. This was just perfect . I hate when store attendants keep breathing down your neck like hungry hyenas. Kavin had the freedom to run around everywhere, and I could browse in peace .

There is a large women’s clothing collection – vibrant, classy and varied . As expected, my filled out figure would have split the seams of all these dresses which are designed for the svelte Singaporean silhouette. But hey- if you’re what we would call a ‘figure’ back home – this is your place . The bridal gown collection is stunning . The dresses were priced from $300, but they are in almost pristine condition . ¬†But the best part was the footwear collection – Stilettos; Platforms; ¬†Sneakers; Slip Ons; Formals; Jewel studded party wear , – you name it, they had it . I silently cursed by flat feet which are doomed to medicated footwear and moved on .

Ah – the toys section ! Kavin went ga ga . To say that the toys looked well maintained, is an under statement . Most of them, looked like they were never played with, and some were actually brand new – packaging et all. Apparently Changi Airport / Mc Donalds etc donates their leftover plush toys . You know, those toys where – ‘If you spend 100$ at Changi – you get a plush toy free. Disclaimer- Until stocks last‘. The latest Star Wars toys were hanging here, ¬†3 ChewBacca plushes for $5 only . What variety of soft toys – dinosaurs , bugs, Hello Kitty, most animals. Almost all the soft toys were between $2 – $10 and I had to clamp my hands firmly to resist the temptation to buy them. Kavin actually sat down for some imaginary play , while I went to check out the kids wear section .

Well you can’t get too greedy, the kids section was fairly empty – except for a few Halloween costumes ( in great condition ) and a few pairs of footwear . I got some really nice Minion Sneakers for Kavin at $5. Steal deal. ¬†The men’s section was even more pathetic, with an exception of some classy vests, boots and some nice hats . Even the men’s shoe section did not have much to offer . Well I guess men and children really don’t turn over clothes before they are worn out . ūüôā

We wandered further into the shop, passing some art pieces and showcase stuff , Kavin stopped at giant Amethyst rough cut rock,staring curiously, which led to a series of interesting questions – but that is a story for another day . Near the back of the store is the bookworm’s delight, where a few rows of books stand like cavalry. I took a deep breath of old books – that musty faded paper smell. Kavin happily plopped down with books all around him . ¬†Seduced by the kitchen ware,¬†I left him to ransack the children’s book section.

Trust me, there is some really nice stuff here . Ceramic , Plastic, Stainless Steel, Paper . It’s a rather odd collection, and the arrangement reminds me of all these ‘hoarder movies’ I’ve seen in the past . But among this well sorted assortment, there are quite a few unique pieces . The cutlery extends to ovens, coffee makers, sewing machines, hot pots, steam boats, electric grills, microwaves and all other electronic kitchen appliances you can think of , but I’m rather wary about outdated electrical goods, and only a few were at throw away prices .

A corner was allocated to what I’d like to call – the Daiso section . It was mostly new stuff, all priced at $2, – worthy return gift material. This and the soft toy section, and your birthday party gift shopping is complete. This corner also had quite a few puzzles, plastic assembly kids, and mechatronic toy kits. And while I was happily flirting with the culinary goods – ¬†not a squeak from Kavin. He was engrossed in a Dinosaur book , which after a lot of hesitation, I decided to buy . At $3.50 , I shouldn’t be complaining.

Just as I ¬†thought, Kavin had enough stimulation for the day, we spotted the musical instrument corner . Now, I am no musician – so I cannot comment about the quality, but it served for an extra half hour of engaging Kavin’s curiosity . We went through electric guitars, trombones, violins, drums, cymbals, and a few woodwind instruments. He begged me for the drum, which required a great deal of diversion to forget .

The billing is simple and straightforward.   Cash, NETS and Credit Card is accepted . Members get a further 10% discount(except on books) . They even  give you a fancy bag to take home.

We took a few minutes to take a few pictures outside, and marched on Рbook in hand , and our thoughts brimming with  dinosaurs, instruments and gemstones.

If you love thrift stores, or you simply need an interesting air conditioned place to head out with your toddler, do visit Salvation Army’s family stores.

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Scouting toddler hang outs

We would have spent the first two years of Kavin’s life majorly at malls and indoor play areas. This worked great for us because 98% of Singapore malls are equipped with breast feeding stalls and since Kavin was still crawling/waddling , I could keep a better eye on him in closed spaces. Besides indoor play areas are always strategically located next to breast feeding room, and you can’t help but thank the air conditioning in malls in this sweltering heat . Indoor play areas are also great at shielding you from the haze and the prices are quite pocket friendly when your child is under two . Did I mention that most spaces have built in cafe’s ? I swear to God, the coffee was a bigger incentive to me, to get my lazy self out of the house and explore these places .

But despite all these conveniences, after Kavin turned two, I started to get restless, and Kavin; bored. That’s when I began to scout for different places to take Kavin. We briefly put Kavin in a Montessori school, but pulled him out pretty quick , for many reasons which I will discuss some other day . Living in our small 1 bedroom apartment was naturally constraining for the hyper toddler – so ¬†our adventures began.

Now I don’t want to sound like those complaining NRI’s who don’t live in India, yet cringe about their country of residence. No – I absolutely have nothing to complain about Singapore. Yet, let’s face it Singapore is expensive ,and ¬†as a foreigner doubly .. no wait … triply expensive . That being said, we are a single income family – as hard as I try to be prudent in our spending, there is that occasional indulgence . Which is why most of our toddler hangouts are usually free places . This doesn’t mean we don’t have options. That is the best part of being a Singapore mumma, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to free places for kids. Better still, keep a lookout for coupons. YES coupons for child play areas exist !

I just thought I could share a few of our adventures, honest accounts of how we planned, enjoyed and what learning came of it . Though the point is not always to learn, but rather to have fun.

When I was thrust into this whole ‘parenting’ thing, I didn’t know a thing. I still don’t . If at all I teach Kavin anything its because I follow his lead . To me – as Kavin’s parent/friend – FOLLOWING HIS LEAD , is the most important thing . Much to my husband’s disappointment – none of our days are planned. Though I love craft, I do not force it on the kiddo . Kavin is about to turn three, and intuitively I feel this approach has worked out . Like any kid his age he is inquisitive by nature, and cannot stop asking questions . This is what I love about kids , the way they question everything .

His questions have led us to all this fun .. I hope you share our joy !

Worn Out Clothes

At one point, okay well not one point, at many points in my life, I’ve thought my mom (Amma) must have OCD. Turns out she just has attachment issues. When my mother receives a new garment( she almost never buys for herself, somehow her parents and siblings still spoil her silly ) ….. . Well in short that garment is doomed for life.

And here I begin, the life-cycle of my mom’s clothing.

First the garment is put away for a special occasion. This event may occur in the first three years of the garments life. Do understand, in rare cases where the garment( henceforth referred to as “G”) is purchased by my mother herself, it may escape her clutches when a more worthy ‘someone’ visits our house, and Amma scrambles to find them a gift. ¬†I swear to God, if you listen very carefully, you can hear G showering praises to the lord, and profusely thanking the new owner.

Other unfortunate G’s gifted by near and dear ones, that hold particular sentimental value, unfortunately have to serve their sentence along with the fellow moaning Gs, yearning and discussing their fortune..”Who is next to the island” ( What up ISLAND reference ? and #superwoman #lilysingh ) . I reckon these Gs would have been happier on clothing store shelves, enjoying the view .

In that tiny Godrej Almirah, the Gs would probably discuss salvation as the arrival of Ms.S – the SISTER. Some Gs in the almirah were actually her hand me downs, they would narrate stories of colorful outings, coordinated jewelry, starch stories, and special ‘dry cleaning’ visits . My mom’s sister you must understand is a fashionista in her own right. She spends time to shop, usually releases her purchases within a month, and takes great care to maintain them. This is in sharp contrast with Amma, except for the maintenance part . Well you have got to wear them to wear them out right ūüôā .

So the arrival of the sister is like Diwali . A screaming match would follow soon, the door to the almirah opened. Sighing Ms. S would pull out the new Gs, and beg… more like threaten to see them worn . There would also be a tug of war between Amma and Ms.S , for throwing out the old clothes. The lucky ones would reach the gates of heaven, but the others would be sent to the CUPBOARD .

The almirah, well the almirah housed the special Gs, the Pattu Gs, the expensive Gs. One could equate them to princess Jasmine from Aladdin. Privileged surrounded by riches, and mostly the best treatment, but never let out to the real world.

But the CUPBOARD , what can I say? ¬†‘thrown in the garbage’ is a much better option than the clutches of the cupboard. You see the cupboard was like the plantation, and its occupants the slave workers. Underpaid, abused and torn . There is not one family member, who has not not mentioned, directly or in passing, that Amma was wearing something torn . For all I know, our housekeepers dress better than her.

These cupboard G’s served as her daily wear, they ¬†would encounter kitchen gunk, that seeped through her apron . (Oh ! the blessed Apron, it deserves a separate life story – but that’s for another day.) , the bathroom trails, the sweaty yoga and well- ¬†life pretty much . If the dhupatta met its kurti pair, it would be like the reunion of Tom Hanks and Kelly Hunt in CASATAWAY. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie picture Maryan – Dhanush and Parvathy Menon reuniting.

I tell you this because the dainty dhupatta would hardly recognize the starved, beaten down, tanned ( well in the case Рripped of color) , gnarly counterpart . These kurtis now incapable of joining their partner, would be sadly seperated, and the kurtis would move on the harder life .. the life of a rag . Every kurti of the CUPBOARD silently prays for a 10 inch gnash, for anything lesser than that would be considered usable by Amma.

Only later, does the now, sliced up kurti realize that life before the ISLAND ( rag) , was far better. Some rags were lucky , if other members of the house picked them up for rubbing of grease and oil, they would be binned immediately.Others of synthetic lineage had better fate, yes the quota systems rocks everyone’s life.

Others went through the horrible cycle of wash, scrub, reuse , and wash again till nothing remained but shreds, and even bacteria would refuse to inhabitant.

The good thing, here in Singapore, the Gs don’t have to go through such a painful life . The main reason why my mother has “attachment issues” , is because she cannot bear to waste anything. She has to extract, everything it has to offer . Thank God to H&M, here at Singapore . All of Singapore’s outlets accept clothes, and they recycle them .

H&M claims that almost 95% of garments that lie in landfills all over the world have the potential to be recycled. This means that, for clothes you cannot donate, Рyou know those faded worn out ones that fit, you love, but simply cannot wear- well now you can rest them in peace . And what is better is H&M provides you a  15% off discount voucher to buy anything from their store . You recycle, and you even get an incentive.

Don’t be my mom. Recycle !

 

 

The Beginning

I remember the nervousness, It had been only 20 days since my wedding, I was late by 8 days. In the pit of my stomach, I dreaded the worst ..

My husband had left me with my inlaws almost immediately after the honeymoon. It was new, unfamiliar terrain, and I felt so sure . I called and texted my husband a few times to speak of my fears . He brushed it aside, he said it was too soon, and I was being too anxious . Truth be told, he was the kind of guy, who didn’t even know that home pregnancy kits existed .

I called my best friend, he was a doctor, tears rolled down as I explained, he found the whole situation amusing . I still can here his casual statement, ‘Go buy a pregnancy test’ . I was furious, this was not what I had signed up for . Marriage was supposed to be, oodles of cuddling, romantic selfies, walking hand in hand , not rubbing my tummy and checking my weight .

It was three days since I suspected, and I couldn’t bring myself to go to a pharmacy . How could I go, how could I ask, and to top it all, I was stuck in this new house. That day after lunch, I burst into tears, my mother in law commented, ‘Oh she must be homesick’. It was far from homesick, I had lost my appetite, my husband thought I was joking, my friend offered to get me a test- how embarrassing, and I couldn’t find an excuse to leave the house . I mean what would I tell them ?

Day 4 dawned, I had given up on my husband, though he promised he would take the flight to Chennai that weekend, I wanted to get it out of my head. I faked a headache and mustered the courage to go to the pharmacy. It was a nightmare .

My fresh yellow mangalsutra shined bright, I felt every eye in the pharmacy was on me. My face was red and hot with embarrassment, and I remember running out the store. The actual test was even more humiliating . Did the instructions really say, I had had to add pee on the stick. ‘Ughh disgusting. That is so yuck’ – that is all that played in my head. Besides how was I supposed to do that ?

A few minutes later I remember being completely blank, staring at 2 lines. Absolutely blank, Oh and then the tears came…