Twin Mum Questions

50d4b665dc1140faf06be9785be3660f-twin-girls-twin-babiesIt never gets old. From the time GG & BB were born till now, every time people hear I have twins, people ask me questions, most of which, when I think about it, are almost similar in nature. BB & GG turn 14 this year and I have been fielding these questions for just as long. So here’s a list of questions that I sometimes wish I have prepared answers for and just pass it to them when they ask!

f8c92fd92da4a96a4c0882c314c4a2aeAre they twins? (I used to get asked this a lot when they were younger, but I don’t get asked this question anymore because BB is taller than GG and so people assume she is the younger sister)

Yes, they are….They look the same age, right?

Is it two boys/two girls?

No, they are not, can’t you see they are dressed differently, according to their sex? When they learn one of each – Wow! Fantastic, you hit the jackpot!

Are they identical?

No, they are not. Basic biology states that identical twins need to be the same sex and since they are of different sexes, they are fraternal twins and not identical


Were they planned or did it happen naturally?

Gosh! Such intrusive questions about my life!

Were they conceived naturally?

Another super intrusive question, but to answer it, yes, they were conceived naturally

Do twins run in your family?

I am actually not sure here. My mum’s sister has twins, but the generation before that didn’t have. Maybe it runs my maternal grandmother’s family, but we are still not sure.

Do they look alike?

Hello! Twins of a different sex, so obviously they look different. But in all fairness, when they were babies, people did tend to feel they looked alike, but I never saw the likeness!


Are they alike in temperament?

Nope! They are completely different in temperament, likes and dislikes. GG is a very girly girl who loves to draw, paint and sing while BB is a boy who, like most boys loves planes, cars and other vehicles, his obsession with planes is real and he has most likely decided to have a career in aviation.

Who is older/younger?

GG is older by 2 minutes. They were delivered by c-section and my gynaecologist/obstetrician felt she was not growing well and may not survive the trauma of a natural birth, hence the scheduled c-section. So she was delivered first, but we were worried in vain, as she was relatively healthy and didn’t need to spend any time in the NICU, which was what was told to us before the birth.

I could never do it

Well, before I had twins, I never thought of managing twins too, but you just do what you have to do! So I did it!


To any twin mum reading this article, what are your favourite twin mum question?


Chillin in Batam Part 2

Part 1


The South entrance of Nagoya Hill Mall

We dumped our stuff in the hotel room and decided to explore the Nagoya Hill Mall and also grab some lunch since it was almost noon in Batam, which meant it was 1 pm in Singapore and our stomachs were growling with hunger. After asking the hotel reception the best way to the mall, we reached there and entered by what we later learnt was the south entrance. This entrance is right at the small alleyway which houses a number of spas and massage parlours. It was also here that there was an A&W restaurant, but both BB & GG were not interested in the root beer which was no longer available in Singapore. They said they’ve had it before and that it tasted like toothpaste!!



Food Street on the first floor

We entered the mall and walked to the first floor which was like a food street with many food stalls and restaurants. After walking the length of the food street, we realised we could not eat anywhere as none had vegetarian options and we ended up at Pizza Hut which was our last choice place to eat. There was not much option at Pizza Hut also, so we ended with some pizza, garlic bread, waffles etc which didn’t really fill our stomach.


After lunch, we walked around the mall and brought some manga toys for GG, then some fidget spinners for both BB & GG and then while walking, saw a shop selling some fake bags. The children brought some backpacks and I got a fake Longchamp bag. The quality was quite good and for the price (around SGD 10) quite worth it. After that we went to see the theatre, there was just The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean running so opted not to see at the moment. Then decided to explore the mall more and went into their anchor department store, Matahari. Since it was the month of Ramadhan, the store was running a lot of promotions and tee shirts were on a buy one get one offer.

Another anchor tenant was a hypermarket called Hypermart where we went next to stock up on water and some snacks and drinks and also check out what was available. After that we were quite knackered, so decided to stop for some coffee for the adults and bubble tea for the children. After this was time to spend money on massages, one of the big reasons to come to Batam. While having coffee, I looked around and saw a spa called Thai Odyssey.


A cute elephant at Thai Odyssey Spa

I remember reading some good reviews about Thai Odyssey, which is an upscale spa in Malaysia so decided to do our first massage there. We all wanted a foot massage, so went for the 60 minutes one which cost Rp 180,000 each. They started with washing our legs and then giving us slippers to wear. After that, we were asked to put our bags (except handbags) into a locker, the keys to which was handed to me. Then we were asked to change our bottoms to their own which would help them massage. Then we went to the massage room and they served us some ginger tea after which the actual massage started. We were also offered some eye shades if we wanted to relax. The massage was great but at Batam prices, slightly expensive. We walked back to the hotel to relax a bit before venturing out for dinner.



The handles in the cupboards at the ‘pantry’ area of our room, which I was very taken up by

Back at the hotel, S rested and slept awhile and the children and I chilled and watched some videos. Sometime slightly before 6 pm, we left to try and find an Indian restaurant I had found was close to the mall. The restaurant is called Taj Indian Delight and I thought we could reach it from the other side of the mall. You exit from the side of J.CO and get out of the mall completely. Walk to Nagoya Hill hotel and at the main road there, turn left. Walk for around 5 minutes and at the traffic light, cross the road. At this point, you see the road turns right. Just follow the road and at this turning, you see the restaurant. We had a nice Indian meal there. All of us took the Bombay Meal which included one chapati, a huge bowl of rice, a small cup of aloo jeera, a soup bowl full of Dal fry, a soup bowl full of chana masala and a papad. They also gave us a small cup of mango ginger pickle. The portions were quite generous and the meal came to approximately SGD 6 per person, inclusive of a drink each.


The next day, all of us woke up early despite being on a holiday and so went for an early breakfast which was a big disappointment to us. We know that usually in hotel buffet breakfasts, we can probably eat around 30% of the food available, but here, we could eat less than 10% given that there was hardly any options which were vegetarian friendly.

We reached the mall around 10 am and started looking for a spa which seemed wallet friendly. We chanced upon Eksa Spa and Wellness which also had good reviews on Trip Advisor and so when we went in and checked, we found the rates for a massage seemed reasonable and so S and I did the deep tissue massage for one hour. The price stated was Rp 170,000 per person which became Rp 187,000 per person when they added the taxes. During the massage, we had to disrobe except for underwear and they give women a sarong to wear while guys get a pair of pants. The massage area is actually a screened-off area and we got the ‘couple room’. The massage started with some dry massage and then the therapist started using some oil to do really deep and hard massage. It was quite good and after the massage, we were given some delicious ginger tea.

Post massage we went into the mall and looked for a nail place for BB and me to do a pedicure. Found one near the movie theatre. The cost for a classic pedicure was Rp 98,000 per person and while we were doing it, the boys went to find out the next show timing and then play some arcade games nearby. After the pedicure, we went to look for them and it was time for lunch which we did at the same Indian place we had dinner. After lunch, we decided to go and see The Mummy. We had two Rp 30,000 vouchers from Matahari from the previous day so this meant two tickets were free and we only paid Rp 60,000 for four movie tickets (SGD 1.50 per person). We were tired by the time the movie ended, but I didn’t want to go back to the hotel because knowing myself, I wouldn’t come back if I did that. So I decided to go for a facial and before that we finished all our shopping. GG decided to wait for me while BB and S went back to the hotel to keep back the things.

I did the facial at Eksa again. It was some whitening and hydrating facial for dry skin. The therapist started with cleansing my face and then a scrub was applied. After that, she applied some toner and then used some vacuum thingy to suck the pores and blackheads. I have like a gazillion pores and blackheads and this was not painful at all. She then next extracted the blackheads using the blackhead extractor and I can say she was quite skilled as I hardly felt any pain at all. I am usually in tears at this point in a facial and there are times I want to ask the therapist to just give up and that I will live with the blackheads. But she did it in such a way it didn’t pain at all, even at the most which is the worst area. Next she toned it and started massaging my face which was quite wonderful. After the massage was some sort of a metal which she said was a high frequency machine. After this she put in a mask and waited for it to dry. While drying, she also massaged my neck and shoulders. After the mask dried, she peeled it off and then applied serum and moisturiser. Then a drink of ginger tea and I was done.

After dinner at the Indian restaurant again and a leisurely walk back to the hotel, we asked our hotel reception to see if we could change our ferry tickets to an earlier one. This was because our helper was sick in Singapore and I wanted to go earlier to see if she needed to see a doctor. I had taken her to the doctor before our trip, but during my daily calls to her, she still sounded sick, hence the decision to go earlier. We were told we would have to pay Rp 30,000 per person since they had already issued the boarding pass to us when we booked online. Initially we were not sure, but the next day, we decided to go ahead with paying the fee and leaving earlier.

On our last day in Batam, we went back to the mall after a slightly late breakfast and brought some o their famous layer cakes and honeycomb cakes to take back home. Then came back to the hotel and after making sure we had left nothing, checked out and took a hotel taxi to the ferry terminal. The process to change the boarding passes at the ferry terminal was quite simple and since we still had an hour to boarding, we decided to check out the mall next to the terminal to catch a bite to eat before boarding. The ferry going back home was a single decker one and we sat in the back. Our bags were kept in the luggage rack at the entrance of the ferry and I was a bit worried about them since it was not locked and Singapore has very strict drug laws and so made some check the luggage periodically. So that ended our two day holiday in Batam. I am quite tempted to make day trips there, especially to do some spa treatments as they are cheap compared to Singapore as well as shop in the hypermarkets where some household goods and toiletries are a real steal if compared to stores here.

Chillin in Batam


Superstar Gemini berthed at the Ferry Terminal

In all the years of living in Singapore, I’ve never even considered Batam which is just an hour’s ferry ride from Singapore as a possible holiday destination. In fact, newspaper articles I’ve read over the years about old men having second wives on the island, made the whole place seem sleazy in my eyes. Even S, who has lived his whole life in Singapore has never been there.


Then when we decided on a holiday this June, S could only take a few days because of his schedule and because of his and children’s schedules, this was the only few days we could go on a holiday. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, we decided to go to either Malaysia or Indonesia and didn’t want to spend a lot of time travelling. We considered Melaka or Kuala Lumpur but we’ve been there before and so it didn’t enthuse anyone. So we decided to try the Bintan or Batam islands in Indonesia’s Riau province, which are an hour’s ferry ride away. Bintan is mostly a resort island and since we’re not beach people with interests in watersports, we decided to give Bintan a miss this time and zoomed into Batam.

I wanted a holiday where I can just chill and not rush from one tourist site to another. Usually, I am the opposite, wanting to maximise our holiday and I meticulously research places to see and do. I did the same here too, but there was really nothing much to see, so we decided to have a lazy holiday.

I had decided on the Harris Hotel near the Ferry Terminal as the reviews were quite good for the hotel. But just as I was about to confirm the hotel, I had a thought to check out places to eat near the hotel, when I found that there was nothing which was a walkable distance. We would have to take taxis everywhere and this was something I was not too keen on since taxis are not metered in Batam and we didn’t have a local cell phone or data to call for any metered taxi or even Uber. So I decided against Harris and checked out other areas. I looked at the Nagoya Hill area which had the biggest mall in Batam and so we could definitely find something to eat. I found an Indian place at a walking distance from the mall and so started looking at hotels close to the mall. There are many hotels there, and I chose based on reviews and price and decided on Harmoni Suites hotel which was a 5-7 minute walk from the mall and a 10-minute walk to the eating place.

I booked the hotel through Agoda and we got the room for around S$50 per night, which was a decent rate for a space we would hardly use. The location is great though and except for two occasions, (to and from the Ferry Centre), we didn’t use any taxi at all.


Another Sindo Ferry vessel which came in just as we left the ferry berth

I also booked our ferry tickets online and used Sindo Ferry. There are a few ferry operators who ply between Singapore and Batam and most have similar reviews and safety records. I just chose one which had the times we wanted. The tickets cost us around S$50 for a return ticket for one person and since we booked online, our boarding passes were issued along with the ticket. If you already have the boarding pass, you need to be at the terminal only 30 minutes before time, otherwise, you may have to be there almost 60-70 minutes earlier. This is because the ferries do not have assigned seating and if you are travelling as a family and get there late, you may not be able to sit together.


We reached the ferry terminal around 40 minutes before departure time because of traffic and roadworks on the way. But our taxi driver was very nice and dropped us off very close to the escalator leading to the departure area. Since we went on a weekday morning, immigration was a breeze and even in the departure lounge, we realised that there were not many people travelling that day. We saw some people lining up around 10 minutes to departure and I did too, over S’ objections not to waste time standing!


Sentosa and Resorts World Sentosa as we left the Ferry Terminal

There were less than half the seats taken up in the ferry and the one we went in was a double-decker one. Initially, we were sitting on the lower deck, but S went up and saw that the upper deck was better, so we moved there too. Luggage has to be stored on the bottom deck. If you are travelling with small bags (think cabin baggage size), then you can carry it with you on board, but larger and odd-sized luggage need to be checked in.


The ferry even had in-flight instructions, just like an airline. We left with Sentosa on our left and the Singapore skyline on our right. The ferry name was Queen Star 5. At some point, S and I went to the open deck (probably meant for smokers) and took pictures of the receding Singapore skyline with the froth the ferry left behind. It was so windy and thrilling but both the children didn’t want to do it. At most points of the trip, we could still see the Singapore skyline, though it looked slightly as if it is shrouded in haze.


Our first view of Batam with the ferry terminal and immigration building in the foreground

Immigration at Batam was a breeze since the ferry hardly had any passengers. I had heard stories about Batam immigration deporting people back to Singapore for being noisy, so had prepped BB & GG to be quiet and not use their headphones while queueing, but perhaps because it was so fast, we didn’t have anyone asking anyone in the line to shut up. We came out and took a taxi from the counter who told us it will be IDR 70,000.


Outside of immigration, we took a taxi from the counter who told us it will be IDR 70,000 to our hotel. It’s probably more expensive, but since we don’t know any better, we let it slide.  On the way to the hotel, my first thoughts about Batam reminded me of Malaysia, maybe Singapore some 30 years back? Roads are like those in India, slightly pot-holed. Lots of hotels and inns here, probably a bustling Singapore holidaying population.

We stayed at the Harmoni Suites which was a 7-10 minute walk to the Nagoya Hill Shopping Mall. We’d asked for early check-in and we go it when we reached the hotel around 11:30 am. We’d asked for a room away from the road since there’s a mosque opposite the hotel and since this was the Ramadan period, we didn’t want the prayers being broadcast disturb us. What we got were adjoining rooms which faced the breakfast buffet area. After settling in, we decided to walk to the mall to grab some lunch.

This is part one, more to come on Friday….


Family Stories: Family Adoptions

Following my last post, I started thinking more about what makes a woman a mum. I have also been watching this drama where a woman is forced to give up her five-year-old daughter to her sister-in-law (husband’s sister) who is childless. She has another, older daughter and is pregnant with her third child, which also happens to be a girl. Her husband had taken loans from his sister’s husband who also pressurises the couple for the adoption. The woman’s mother-in-law also forces the issue as she wants her daughter to be happy since the daughter’s mother-in-law is forcing her son to divorce her since she is childless. The only person who is on her side is the woman’s brother-in-law (husband’s brother), but he is silenced by the others in the family. At this point in the drama, the child has been handed over, but everyone is miserable. I am sure the ending will be positive, as it happens in all dramas, but this got me thinking about something that has happened in my own family.

My mum is the oldest of four girls, and when my grandmother was pregnant with her fourth child (maybe in the hope of having a boy), her sister-in-law (my grandfather’s sister) who was married, but childless offered to adopt the child if it was another girl. My aunt was born and was informally adopted by her aunt. Why informally you may ask? This was because she was betrothed at birth to a cousin who happened to have the same gotra as her aunt. Now because marriage within a gotra was prohibited, the aunt could never formally adopt her or even have her call her mum. She lived with my mum’s aunt all her life, a mere 10-minute walk from her mum’s place and used to meet her sisters often. She always knew who her parents were and used to call them mum and dad and her adopted mum and dad as aunt and uncle, but she didn’t go to the same school as her sisters and perhaps in a small way resented the hold her sisters had over her.

When she got married, it was my grandparents who gave her away and this rankled my grandaunt all her life. She was incredibly jealous of my grandmother and my mum and her sisters and would resent anytime my aunt spent with them. This went on for around 60 odd years until the grand aunt died last year.

She was a mother to my aunt in all ways that mattered but never heard her adopted daughter call her mum, while she had to hear her sister-in-law being called mum all the time. I would think the resentment she had within herself was completely justified.

Then I started thinking about my grandmother. How would she have felt, having to hand over her child to someone else, even though she was her own sister-in-law? Would she have felt pressurised by her family to give her up? Or did she do it with full consciousness?

The person who was most stressed was my aunt according to me. She was constantly under pressure between her mum and adoptive mum and had to play a balancing game all her life. It is only now, when she is past 60 and her adoptive mum has passed on, that she is planning a holiday to stay with her birth mum for a month. How sad is that! She had to always watch her thoughts, words and actions in case her adoptive mum took offence in something she said or did, especially when it related to her birth family.

This situation was something I’d lived with my whole life and was not something I really thought about till now because this was normal in my family. But watching the drama and then relating it to what happened/is happening in my own family made me see it in a different light, one that is more emphatic, I hope.

I hope sharing this family story helps you see adoptive families, especially those who have been adopted by their own family a little differently. Life is never black or white and this is one situation where the shades of grey are more prominent.

Grandmother Tales

grandma09When I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought of today was my paternal grandmother. Somehow I kept thinking about her and thought I should dedicate this post to her.

My paternal grandmother, whom I called ammama was a remarkable lady. Ammama in some Tamil dialects and in Malayalam actually refers to your mum’s mum but I used to use it interchangeably for both my grandmothers!

3eeb889d8100ad16e6837259a7c58518Actually, there’s a story to why I called her ammama. Growing up, it seemed normal to me to call both my grandmothers by this name. I realised that it was different when I heard others call their grandmothers pati which in Tamil means grandmother. But I never really gave it a thought. Following my example, my sister and later other cousins from my maternal side also started calling our maternal grandmother as ammama and used to call their paternal grandma as pati. Years later, probably after I became a mother myself and my mother became a pati, I asked her why I used to call my grandmothers ammama? Her answer actually made me pause because apparently, it was my paternal grandmother who wished that I used this name to call her. I never had the chance to ask her this question, but I guess she must have been quite young when I was born and a streak of vanity in her didn’t want her to officially become a grandmother so young! So by making us call her ammama, she didn’t become a pati, yet we had a unique name to call her.

She was married to my grandfather when she was around 9 years old and came with him to Bombay (as it was then called) sometime in the early 40s. She was not very highly educated, she probably just finished high school, but was a very voracious reader. My dad always tells me that my love for books most likely came from her.

I was also named for her. In Tamil nomenclature, the first born child is usually named after the paternal grandparents (so paternal grandfather for the first born son and grandmother for the first born daughter) and the next child of the same sex is named after the maternal grandparents.  So, though the name I legally go by is not hers, I have her name on my birth certificate and can legally use anytime I want to do. This tradition is to keep family names alive and is probably the reason you see many south Indians with long and unpronounceable names!

In addition to being a reader, or perhaps because she was a reader, she was also very skilled in telling stories. I remember countless nights when I was very young when my sister and I would huddle against her and listen to stories before bedtime. She was the one who introduced mythology to us and would regale us with stories from the Hindu pantheon. She was also quite good at making up stories with the prompts we gave her and now I wish I had recorded those stories to share with BB & GG.

When I was around six years old, she moved away, first to a city in Western India and then to a city in Southern India because of my uncle, who was considerably younger than my father, and who was single then, moved for work. My grandfather had retired by then and so they decided to spend their last years away from the hustle and bustle that Bombay had by then become. They loved the southern city they finally moved to and when my uncle got married and moved away, they decided to stay there permanently. They first rented and then bought their own home there which my ammama lovely restored (the house was being used as student accommodation when they brought it so you can imagine the condition it was in).

We, especially I, waited impatiently for ammama to come to Bombay for their trips and when she was there, I probably forgot my parents completely. It was always ammama this and ammama that for me for the month or two that she was with us. I also used to wait for the summer holidays to come so that I could go to spend time with her. In case you wonder, it was not all a bed of roses with her too! She was very traditional and conservative and I used to chafe at the restrictions she used to put on us, especially some which I never understood since we were girls. For all her conservatism and traditions, she was also quite liberal in her outlook and encouraged my dad to give us far more freedom in terms of what we could do (within reason and boundaries) as compared to other girls around us. Perhaps this stemmed from what her daughter, my aunt went through in life which she didn’t want her grand-daughters to go through too.


The last time I spent time with her was when I was starting my class 12 year (equivalent to the A-levels in India). Since the exams would end much earlier, we had made plans before leaving that I would travel alone to be with her for a whole month before my mum and sister came. I was so excited going back to Bombay that I was making plans in the train, a whole year before the trip! She and my tatha were travelling on the same day to another city to attend a wedding and we had gone to the station together. Their train was before ours and so we said our goodbyes at the station. We reached Bombay late at night the next day and the day after that, around 5:30 am, we got a call from one of my dad’s relatives that she had passed away! She had a massive heart attack at the wedding venue and before she could get any medical attention, she passed away!

Writing this last sentence brought tears to my eyes, even now, more than a quarter of a century after the event! My parents rushed back to her town and left us back in Bombay. I never got a chance to say a last goodbye to my beloved ammama, which at some level, still rankles me, even today! When I first started writing this piece, I was happy sharing my memories about my ammama, but the last paragraph made me sad! I am still happy that I have these memories with me, I have friends who have no memory of their grandparents at all!

My maternal grandmother is still alive and healthy for her age and I am glad she is around. My children have and know their great-grandmother and she knows her brood of great-grandchildren!

Writing this post has been difficult, yet cathartic for me. Do you have memories about a favourite grandparent? Do share!