updated 22 Jan 2012, 16:33
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Tue, Nov 08, 2011
The New Paper
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Nine years and 9,900km later, they’re meant to be happy
by Joyce Lim

For 10 years, time and distance kept pushing them apart. But destiny eventually drew them together. Today, happiness defines them, even though geography continues to force them into a compromise. Marriage has made their lives blissful.

Hundreds of couples in Singapore are expected to find similar joy on Friday - 11-11-2011 - an auspicious day for what will be the happiest day of their lives.

Young Singaporeans unhappy? Not if you ask the lovey-dovey couples on Friday. Certainly not if you ask Madam Mindy Tan and hubby Madari Math Ly Haroun.

Their love story is perfectly summed up in a line from US country singer Trisha Yearwood: "What's meant to be will always find a way."

Their winding path to happiness began in 2002.

Madam Tan, 30, a wedding photographer, had met the German-Cambodian tourist at Zouk.

She was 21 and he was 23.

He was shy. She was intrigued.

It was the second day of his week-long holiday in Singapore. Their eyes met across the crowded floor at Zouk and Mr Haroun was smitten at first sight.

He confesses to The New Paper on Sunday: "I saw her dancing with her friends. She was really cute. I kept glancing at her from time to time."

Madam Tan says: "I saw this dude staring at me the whole night. When the lights came on, he was still staring at me but did not make any attempt to talk to me.

"My friends and I were discussing where to go for supper so I walked up to him and asked if he would like to join us."

Mr Haroun, now 32, said "okay" right away.

The shared a taxi to the now defunct S11 coffee shop outside the old National Library for supper. Their friends took a separate taxi.

As they recall that first night, Madam Tan and Mr Haroun glance lovingly at each other.

They cannot remember what they talked about that night, but they still remember clearly the initial sparks.

They had met up again the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Mr Haroun, who runs an online retail business, was on his third visit to Singapore with his brother and friends.

But the German ended up spending all his time with Madam Tan. Once, he was so desperate to see her that he sneaked into a lecture Madam Tan was attending at the National University of Singapore. She was then pursuing her degree in theatre and sociology.

But soon it was time for him to return to Berlin, Germany, to pursue his university degree. The couple stayed in touch via e-mail and video conferencing. But Madam Tan became unsure of keeping a long-distance relationship.

She says: "Back then, I had a very Singaporean mindset that one needs to study and do well in university to find a job that pays well. I still had three years to go in university. How was I supposed to think of dating someone so far away?

"He was more of a dreamer and he kept telling me that if we try hard enough, it's possible."

Madam Tan drifted away. Their e-mail correspondence and online chats grew shorter and less frequent. But Mr Haroun refused to bow out. He was secretly finding ways to enrol in a student exchange programme in Singapore.

Months later, Madam Tan broke his heart. She told him via e-mail that she had met a guy and intended to be in a relationship with him.

Mr Haroun says: "I was very sad. I thought, maybe she was right. Her e-mail was like a wake-up call that I should stop being a dreamer."

He respected her choice. He stopped initiating online chats and gave up hope of studying in Singapore. He was torn.

They stopped communicating with each other.

Two years later, Mr Haroun found an excuse to write to his lost love. He was about to take a trip with his family to Thailand. He asked if she would be able to catch up with him if he were to come to Singapore?

But she declined.

Another two years went by before Mr Haroun got an e-mail from Madam Tan telling him that she was going to be in Berlin for a week as a part of her six-week journey of self-discovery to Eastern Europe.

She asked if he would like to meet for coffee.

Yes, he replied. He also offered Madam Tan a place to stay.

He did not know it then, but Madam Tan had already broken up with her boyfriend. And she was not aware that Mr Haroun had a girlfriend then.

Madam Tan met his girlfriend and was disheartened.

Mr Haroun recalls: "I felt like we were back in 2002. I enjoyed time spent with Mindy. But I already had a girlfriend."

Madam Tan returned to Singapore and resumed her work as a journalist.

She says: "I had a job to return to and a three-year scholarship bond to serve. He already had a girlfriend and I wanted to leave him alone."

But a year later, he broke up with his girlfriend. However, he did not tell Madam Tan about it. They lost touch - until 2009.

Madam Tan had left her job to pursue her dream of becoming a professional photographer. She took on an assignment to take wedding photographs of a couple in Germany.

She met up with Mr Haroun and this time, love gained a firmer foothold.

"We both decided to put in the effort to stay together this time," says Madam Tan.

"We'd come full circle. We didn't want to have to choose between Berlin and Singapore. So we agreed to spend three months together in each city."

Last year, the couple held their wedding ceremony in Berlin on July 9 and a wedding dinner at Singapore's Raffles Hotel on July 23.

Mr Haroun says: "I already fell in love with her in 2002. She is my dream girl.

"All those years, I never stopped thinking of her.

"I am the happiest person on earth."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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