Last month, a video of a man being rejected after proposing with 99 iPhones went viral, with netizens saying that romance does not work on women any more. Ng Jun Sen speaks to men who prove this theory wrong.
The distinct sound of a violin slices through the industrial clatter at Defu Lane every morning.
The song being played is a Mandarin love classic, The Moon Represents My Heart, made famous by Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng. A reader tipped off The New Paper on Sunday about a man in this cluster of workshops and funeral parlours who could be Singapore’s most romantic and devoted man.
So we follow the mysterious notes to Sunrise Auto Services, a car repair workshop.
There we find the owner of the workshop, Mr Paul Low Tien Poh, sitting in a dim office with motor grease on the blue and white walls. In his rough and gritty hands are a $6,000 violin and a $800 bow from Italy.
Says Mr Low, 52, who is surprised to see us: “I started learning the violin four years ago. I surprised my wife with this song on our 18th anniversary.”
At the back of his workshop are several rose bushes in a makeshift garden made out of wooden planks and car parts. He has been growing them since the start of the year.
In a mixture of Mandarin and broken English, he says: “These are for my wife. I give her flowers every year, so why not grow some myself?”
In 22 years of marriage, Mr Low has come up with a series of romantic gestures to celebrate each year of being with his wife, Madam Sally Chan, 48.
Besides learning the violin and growing flowers, he has had exquisite dinners at romantic locations, organised surprise parties and held events proclaiming his love for his wife at their church.
RED LOVE SEEDS
One year, he scoured the ground for hundreds of saga seeds — also known locally as Red Love seeds as they represent earnest love and affection — to put in a vase for her.
Mr Low plans for the next anniversary almost immediately after celebrating the most recent one.
Every gift to Madam Chan is special.
Once, while dining at a sushi restaurant, he got the staff to place a bunch of flowers on the sushi belt.
“Many diners were wondering what the flowers were for. You should have seen the look on my wife’s face when they went to her,” says Mr Low.
Another time, he wrote a hidden love message on the petals of the roses he gave her — a surprise for Madam Chan.
The message was supposed to read: “Thank you for your company”.
“She kept rearranging the petals but couldn’t figure out what my message was. Turns out my English is so bad that there were spelling and grammatical mistakes.”
Unlike Madam Chan, Mr Low says he is not an educated man and used to be boorish and crude.
“My temper was really bad. I would kick things and shout vulgarities at customers when I wasn’t happy.”
But this “brute” yearned for love.
“When all my friends got engaged, I was envious.
“So I went to a matchmaking agency, where I met Sally. She didn’t look down on me,” Mr Low says, adding that she was a cashier then.
They got married within a year of dating.
But, initially, their relationship was “not a passionate one”.
He says: “I put in a lot of effort. Ours was not a fire that slowly died away, but a love affair that grew and grew.”
His first gifts to Madam Chan were roses, the same kind that he still gives her today.
He says: “To make the relationship strong, I need to keep the spark in it.
“Flowers are the spark and over time, I got more and more creative.”
The couple has three children, aged nine to 20, who help out with their father’s secret plans to surprise their mother.
The effort Mr Low takes is enough to put many married men to shame.
Indeed, friends and customers tell TNPS that he “spoils the market”.
One customer, who declines to be named, says of Mr Low: “He is a true romantic. He shares tips with others on how to keep their spouses happy.”
In a phone interview, Madam Chan says: “I am lucky to have met him.”
When we ask if she has done anything in return, the housewife says with a chuckle: “Well... I cook, I look after the kids, I do the chores. That is enough, right?”
Their next anniversary is on Jan 16, but Mr Low’s lips are sealed about what he is going to do for her.
“It is a surprise,” he says with a laugh.
'I'm not afraid of being mushy'
Every year, he makes his wife, Mrs Nalini Rangasamy Rajakrishnan, 46, breakfast in bed and a handmade card for their anniversary.
But for their 20th anniversary last year, renovation contractor Rajendran Rammiah, 53, decided to surprise her.
Says Mr Rajendran: “Oh, expectations do get higher and higher every year.
“I wanted to celebrate all the times we had together. So last year, I thought of doing something really special.”
His plan had many steps.
First, they went for a romantic evening stroll on Sembawang Beach — with some family members.
In the distance, Mrs Nalini spotted a tent that her husband had set up.
Underneath it was a candlelit meal that he had prepared on fine tableware and decorated with flower petals.
As they had their meal of chicken beehoon, Mr Rajendran gave his wife flowers and, of course, another handmade card that read, “Celebrating 20 years of amazing fantastic love!”
It took him a week of preparation, stealthily moving tableware, food and furniture from their home to his van.
He says: “It was a lot of work. It just feels good to know that someone appreciates the effort, especially if that someone is the love of my life.
“She was really excited that I did all this for her.”
It was the perfect setting, as their anniversary coincided with Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year.
“After the meal, we went for a private walk on the beach to watch the sunset. She held my hand,” he recalls.
“In the distance, we could also see the lights from Johor. There were also fireworks from the (Chinese New Year) celebrations.”
Mr Rajendran met Mrs Nalini through a friend.
Over the years, he fell deeper in love with her, he says.
“I’m not afraid of being mushy. Other Singaporean men can be romantic too, even though some might not think it,” he says.
He claims that they have never fought over their 20 years together because both sides always talk it out.
“The trick is every now and then, we ask the other party if we take each other for granted, and then work it out.
“I can’t be complacent. I do these romantic things for her out of love.”
This article was first published on Dec 7, 2014.
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