Posted on 08.5.2020 | 12:00 AM
“I am very happy to be born in Singapore on National Day,” exclaimed our patient, Rukamany, excitedly. The 55-year-old Singaporean is always happy to share this about herself with everyone.
Rukamany takes great pride in being Singaporean. “Singapore is very clean. If you’ve got a problem, you can find answers everywhere; so many charities (are here) to support you. Singapore is better than other countries, some people want to be born here also cannot!” she proudly declared.
But for someone who says she was born on National Day, Rukamany finds the number eight more significant than nine. “I have eight siblings, and am the eighth child,” she shared. Eight is also the number of years she has been on dialysis, and how old she was when both her parents passed. “Actually…I was born on 8th August at 11.45pm, that surely can be counted as National Day?” she impishly confessed.
As if to make her point, Rukamany chooses to celebrate her birthday on National Day because she loves her country. But another reason she would let her most important day, and favourite number take a back seat to 9th August, is so that her loved ones can spend the full day with her
With 14 nieces and nephews from seven families, a public holiday is the only time everyone can meet. Last year, she and her family celebrated her belated birthday on the Singapore Flyer and watched the National Day parade fireworks before having dinner together.
Recently, her extended family invited her and her husband on a trip to Kuala Lumpur for Christmas. “We saw all the lights that were so pretty, and my family had so much fun,” she reminisced fondly.
It may not have been a magical white Christmas, but it was the Christmas Rukamany always wanted.
To Rukamany, romantic love was not necessary, and marriage was about finding someone she could depend on. Through her cousins’ recommendation, she and her husband met at 29. Shortly after, they were engaged. During her engagement, Rukamany made sure that they sorted their finances first before getting married.
Although love was not a pre-requisite, it eventually became the nucleus of their relationship. Every year, on the evening of Rukamany’s birthday, he would buy a slice of cake and ‘surprise’ her while she is in bed. He does this yearly, without fail. Though it may seem more like their relationship has fallen into a routine now, Rukamany disagrees. Her eyes lit up as she said, “It shows me he still loves me very much after many years!”
She wears his love like a suit of armour, protecting her from whatever life may throw at her. In 2010, Rukamany was diagnosed with kidney failure, and needed dialysis. The news shook her. “I was so sad. I cried and cried. I did not want to go (for) dialysis.” But her husband’s love persuaded her otherwise.
“He told me that this is about my health and (it is) no joking matter,” she recalled. He took two months’ leave and accompanied her to the initial dialysis sessions. He saw how tired Rukamany was, and saved whatever he could to buy her a seated E-scooter that would reduce her travelling time. Moved by her husband’s gestures, Rukamany promised to continue receiving treatment, and be more independent.
Now, with her scooter and his bicycle, the couple spends Sundays, which is his only day off, riding around their neighbourhood and having breakfast together. They dress up in matching outfits of the same colour, as a way to show that they are a couple.
Of all her siblings, Rukamany is closest to her eldest sister, who is unmarried and sixth of the nine siblings. “Last time, before I got married, she gave (me) food and took care of everything. And when I got married, she gave me money,” Rukamany recounted.
The couple welcomed her sister to stay with them, because Rukamany believes “we are sisters, (and) we have to take care of each other.” As Rukamany’s sister suffers from psoriasis, arthritis and diabetes, she is medically certified unable to work. Rukamany has also stopped working due to her condition, leaving Rukamany’s husband the sole provider for the sisters.
Still, Rukamany is worried. “Next time, (if) I’m gone, who will take care of her,” she asked, with a lump in her throat.