Getting the keys to your new home is usually reason for celebration, but for single mother Punita Devi, the joy of finally getting a place of her own comes a sobering realisation.
“We had been living on rental for the past year or so, and had no furniture to bring over to our new home,” she says.
“I got married at the age of 19 to someone I barely knew,” Punita begins, adding that she agreed to the marriage because he seemed very “polished” and was “from a reputable family in the Indian community”.
“It wasn’t a loving relationship. I had known him from somewhere previously and he came with his parents to visit mine and ask for my hand in marriage. My parents, being traditional Indians, married me off because they thought I was enjoying my life too much outside with my late nights,” the soft-spoken girl continues.
It was barely nine days after the matchmade wedding that Punita began to see the true colours of her then-husband, when he was imprisoned for a year due to drug-related offences.
“Apparently he not only took (drugs), he also sold them,” she relates wide-eyed, going on to say that she had no idea he was such a character until then.
The nightmare didn’t just end there: when her former beau was released from prison, Punita began to experience first-hand the disastrous effects that drugs have on a person and his family.
“He had an issue with dealing with failure and his resulting depression. Every time he felt that he had not succeeded in doing something, he would go out to drink or take drugs and come back to beat me up,” she says quietly.
He was overwhelmed with paranoia and watched her every movement and it was at this point that she found out that he had been admitted to the Institute of Mental Health several times before.
Unable to bear the brunt of his drug-addled fury, Punita decided that she had had enough.
“I couldn’t deal with the abuse. I had to do something about my situation and I had to do it myself,” she declares.
Unemployed and with her then 6-year old son, Pranav and 1-year old daughter Jayna in tow, she filed for a divorce. Following which came years of job-seeking, raising her children single-handedly on the $1,500 she brought home every month as an Infant Educarer and living in rental flats while applying for a small flat which they could call home.
A Fresh Start
Recently, Punita received the good news that they would be getting a one-bedroom flat and began applying for loans to purchase some home appliances and such, while friends and colleagues began pitching in to help create a comfortable home for her and her children.
“My colleagues have been very helpful; even more so than family,” Punita gushes. According to her, some of her colleagues were also going through their own divorces, and donated furniture and electronics that they salvaged from their marital homes.
“The renovation was done by my colleague’s Dad. I was initially worried about the cost, but he said that payment was not an issue,” she says. Punita is now paying off the renovation costs in small amounts over the next few years.
That all in place, she also began searching for the one thing she lacked: a place to sleep.
She was searching BEDS.sg for some reasonably priced furniture when she came across the Free Mattress Program. Despite her initial excitement, those around her were very skeptical, voicing out concerns that it was a “gimmick”, “out to get personal information”, because “after all, it’s on the Internet”.
But Punita had faith and decided that there was “no harm giving it a go”, and went ahead to apply.
“I just needed a mattress for the kids to sleep. It’s better than sleeping on the cold, hard floor,” Punita says.
She was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from BEDS.sg to confirm the delivery date and time. When her colleague’s father found out that Punita intended to place her free mattress on the floor, he built a divan with an adjoining wardrobe to house it.
When asked what she thought of the Sepora Base she received, Punita has nothing but praise for it.
“It’s good, it’s awesome; it’s the best thing that has happened to me in a while,” she says, beaming from cheek to cheek,“The hundreds of dollars which I saved on the mattress went to other necessities instead, so it has been a big help.”
“There’s something extraordinary about the Free Mattress Program; its something that most companies wouldn’t think of giving away. A clean mattress is so basic, yet so important to a home; and many poor families don’t have it. I think BEDS.sg should be commended for this,” Punita gushes.
Thankfully, Punita’s family has also been selected for the Home Ownership Plus Education (HOPE) Scheme, under the Singapore Buddhist Lodge Vision’s Family Service Centre. Under the HOPE Scheme, the family receives educational bursaries and housing grants. Punita intends to use her training grant to upgrade herself and get a certification in student care services.
Things are indeed looking up for Punita and family as they settle in to their new home.
“Now that we have our own place, we have more privacy and comfort. I want my kids to be able to live this moment in their own home; they’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” she finishes with a smile.