updated 6 Nov 2012, 11:33
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Mon, Mar 12, 2012
The New Paper
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My love forsaken
by Benita Aw Yeong

She fell in love with a persistent Bangladeshi construction supervisor despite her family's protests. Then she got pregnant and he returned to his home country. With her son in foster care now, this S'porean nurse is still picking up the pieces.

The way Singaporean Do Lern Hwei fell in love with Bangladeshi Monir Hossain sounds like something out of a fairy tale.

It happened 13 years ago, when the then-insurance agent was walking along a road in the MacPherson area with a potential client who was getting a little too close for comfort.

Mr Hossain, a construction supervisor at a worksite nearby spotted the duo, and went promptly to her rescue.

Miss Do, 44, recounts the incident which took place in 1999: "The client put his arm around my shoulders and I was trying to resist.

"Monir came along on his bicycle - I remember he had his muddy boots on - and said something in Bengali to the man.

"Later, the client took his arm off me."

Of her first impression of Mr Hossain, 40, the nurse at a day-care centre for the elderly says: "He was very polite. I felt he carried himself well for a manual worker.

"I thought he had very good upbringing."

Her parents, with whom she lived in a terrace home off MacPherson Road, thought otherwise.

They objected to the relationship right from the start, says Miss Do.

"Because he's dark-skinned and he's a construction worker, they told me not to see him and threatened that if I continued, I would have to leave home."

Hiding the relationship was not an option, she adds.

"Right from the start (of our relationship), he would come from the empty factory building across the road, where a worker's dormitory was housed, to my place.

"He would continue asking me out, often coming to my gate to ask for me despite knowing my parents' objections," she says.

His persistence won her heart and quelled any initial cynicism she might have felt towards him.

"Initially, I wasn't really that taken in, even when he told me about six months after we met that he really wanted to be with me and marry me.

"I really trusted him and loved him even more when he stuck around even when my parents asked him to bug off."

When asked about the qualities which attracted her to him, she says with a smile: "Yeah, to me he looked good. And he confided in me, treated me with respect, which is not something I received from employers and colleagues."

For two years, the couple dated, choosing to hang out at food courts and hawker centres instead of restaurants simply because she "did not want him to spend too much" on her.

"He earned about $1,800 a month and worked 12-hour days. He also had to send money back to Bangladesh to support his family, so I didn't want him to spend too much," she explains.

To her, his country of origin was never an issue.

"I know what the best of them are capable of," the fan of Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore says.

The idea of marriage soon came up, but the couple quickly realised it would not be easy tying the knot here because of their different nationalities.

Under the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) Marriage Restriction Policy, all current and former work-permit holders must seek the approval of the authorities if they plan to marry a Singaporean or permanent resident here.

The New Paper on Sunday understands that the process involves filling up a form and screening by an officer from the ministry and takes about one month to complete.

There are about 870,000 work-permit holders working in Singapore as of last year.

Miss Do says they did try to seek marriage approval, but her boyfriend lost his job after his employer heard about their plan to marry.

That stonewalled the application process, which requires permission from the foreign worker's employer, she says. In early 2001, Miss Do realised she was pregnant.

When Mr Hossain was told, he asked her to get an abortion since he felt he not could afford to raise a family on his salary, which had then fallen to $800.

After being laid off from his first job, Mr Hossain found work involving the maintenance of oil tanks on Jurong Island. At that time, she was earning about $1,000 working as a clinic nurse.

In the end, she decided to keep the child even though she and her parents had a bad row over the move.

"He was so cute when he was born, so I never regretted keeping him. I did feel sad that Hossain was not around at the birth, but seeing my son made up for it," she says.

In March 2001, the Bangladeshi decided to return home to start his own business.

He did not say when he would return nor what his plans were regarding their son.

Left alone, the single mother, with the help of her father, applied to place her son in foster care as she could not find someone to care for him while she worked to make ends meet.

She also moved out of her family home to live on her own.

When he was four months old, she gave up her son, now 11, to a foster family living in Upper Bukit Timah. She found the family with the help of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Fostering is different from adoption. A child in the ministry's fostering scheme keeps his identity and is still legally recognised as the child of his biological parents.

An adopted child, however, assumes the rights of a natural child in the family that adopted him.

Miss Do has full custody of her son at present.

He is still living with his foster family, although she hopes that he will one day move back with her.

She visits him once or twice a week and takes him to meet her family regularly.

She also tries to keep tabs on his progress in school by checking his report cards.

Eight years passed before the trio met again.

Miss Do felt it was about time for a family reunion, and put a notice in a local Bengali newsletter appealing for the man she now refers to as her "partner" to show up.

In 2009, Mr Hossain met his son, a primary schooler, for the first time over a meal at West Mall.

He gave his son $100 in cash and bought him clothes and a watch.

"Our son was polite, but after the meeting he told me he didn't really want to see him any more," she says, adding that she is not sure about his reasons.

He returned to Bangladesh a few weeks later and has not returned since. Aside from exchanging a couple of e-mails in the initial weeks, they have not kept in touch.

Miss Do says her feelings for her ex-boyfriend have now diluted from romantic love into platonic admiration.

"I admire that he had very little education in English but could still start a business and make something of himself," she says.

She still hopes to find a kindred spirit and get married. If Mr Hossain comes back and pursues her again, she is likely to reject him.

"I think it would take too much time to repair the relationship. I would like to settle down and have more children," she says quietly.

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This article was first published in The New Paper.

Related story:
Only love, no regret

readers' comments
Just give him a tip of $100 to thank him for saving your life next time. Why throw away your lifelong happiness carelessly? That molester that triggers this bad decision in your life is your biggest creditor.
Posted by marinalink on Wed, 14 Mar 2012 at 11:13 AM
Miss Do, please call me if you see this ad... or my mail not all are the same " singaporean kid are tough lot >F.T. or no half F.T.
Posted by jopiemalay on Wed, 14 Mar 2012 at 10:38 AM

is there a need for you to say "he will now be at best a half FT."?
Posted by rlhk on Wed, 14 Mar 2012 at 10:37 AM
Poor Child
Posted by anglefish on Wed, 14 Mar 2012 at 07:10 AM

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