Accidentally in love

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23 Oct 2023 | PEOPLE

Accidentally in love

He proposed with a takeaway hotpot. She said "yes". This is the story of 3WO Emerald Lim and MSG Kumar, who went from "bros" to best friends to husband and wife.

// Story by Benita Teo // Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of 3WO Lim

Love means feeling safe enough to act silly and have honest, unfiltered conversations, say married couple MSG Kumar (left) and 3WO Lim.

Would you say "yes" to a Haidilao proposal – not in the restaurant, but the takeaway hotpot kind?

3rd Warrant Officer (3WO) Emerald Lim will tell you she was forced to say "yes" to husband Master Sergeant (MSG) Kumaraguru Putaran's hotpot proposal. And it's not (just) because she really loves the dish.

Fellow tankees 3WO Lim, 28, and MSG Kumar, 32, found love when they met the one who could pierce through their armour and allow them to be their true selves. They're also best friends who aren't afraid to act silly around each other or say the most unfiltered things.

If this ain't love, then we don't want it!

Hi 3WO Lim and MSG Kumar, tell us how you met!

MSG Kumar: We were in the same battalion and had seen each other around. But the first time we interacted was during Exercise Panzer Strike in Germany in 2017. I was leading a convoy to refuel the tanks and we were in the same vehicle – I was the loader and she was the commander – and we had our first conversation there, though it was about work!

3WO Lim with MSG Kumar at her Warfighter – Company Sergeant Major Course graduation parade in 2022.

Who made the first move?

MSG Kumar: We don't know who jio (made the first move), but one day I came to my office, and there was a cake there. So maybe it was her.

3WO Lim: That's not jio, that's "testing water".

After Exercise Panzer Strike in 2017, I joined his company as a Platoon Sergeant. That's when we began working together more frequently. We were like bros and we worked together very comfortably. We became a couple in 2018 and got married in 2022.

MSG Kumar: I never thought about it (our relationship status). We were always good friends, so for me it felt natural. Actually, she was the one who asked what are we! One day I was waiting for her under her block, and when she saw me she asked me that.

It's like back in secondary school, when you asked: "Want to go stead anot?" So I said: "Ok loh, then boyfriend and girlfriend loh!"

MSG Kumar proposed in 2020 at Exercise Panzer Strike in Germany, and the couple got married in May 2022.

We heard that you had a one-of-a-kind proposal!

MSG Kumar: I proposed at Exercise Panzer Strike in early 2020. It was the end of the exercise frame and we were all gathering around to take photos.

3WO Lim: The proposal gave me a heart attack! Imagine: you're carrying your rifle, wearing your full Army gear, and then this guy starts kneeling down – in the middle of the field! And he was holding a takeaway Haidilao hotpot that he used in place of flowers! I told him: "Eh, don't play already! Just stand up!" But he ignored me and continued to talk.

MSG Kumar: Then I took out the ring I'd brought with me. But because of the cold weather, the ring became too small and wouldn't fit on her finger! The whole company was cheering for us.

3WO Lim: It was like being forced to say "yes"!

MSG Kumar: I used the hotpot 'cos I couldn't bring flowers with me. Plus, she loves to eat, and with the cold weather in Germany, I thought a hotpot was a good idea. I thought she would eat it with me, but she disappeared after the proposal!

3WO Lim: I went back to the bunk and shared it with my men.

MSG Kumar: And I ate out-rations instead.

3WO Lim with her troopers from 48 SAR in 2019, when she was Platoon Sergeant. It was then that she first began working with MSG Kumar.

What's it like being married to a fellow tankee and working together?

3WO Lim: It's easier to tie things down at work – I can just give him a call. Currently, Kumar's the Support Company Sergeant Major (CSM) in 41st Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment (41 SAR) SAR and I'm a tank gunnery trainer at Armour Training Institute.

He's like the father of the cadets while I'm the teacher: he sends them here and I train them. After their training, I return them to him.

MSG Kumar: Emerald is a trade master. When the cadets come back after learning the trades (of being a tankee), we teach them to operate as a crew.

However, even though 90 per cent of what we do is similar, there's still that 10 per cent – because we hold different appointments, we may not understand the specific challenges each other is facing. For instance, my past few appointments have required me to put in longer hours.

These things take a toll and once in a while she will complain – see, wear green but don't understand! (laughs) But of course, it'll definitely be harder with someone who's not from the force.

3WO Lim: But the bad thing is that when we talk about work, we end up arguing because we both have different ways of doing things and we're very firm about our points of view. That's why we try not to bring our work back home!

Is it easier to surprise each other with gifts though?

MSG Kumar: Very hard lah! She knows my schedule and I know hers, so I want to lie also cannot lie! If she asks my friend: "What's Kumar up to today?" then I will get caught!

3WO Lim: People always call me when they cannot contact him!

The couple holidaying in Disneysea in Japan in 2019. 3WO Lim usually takes charge of the planning and MSG Kumar is happy to go along with her plans.

Who's the romantic one?

3WO Lim: Kumar's not the romantic type, I think I'm more romantic. Like, I will print out our photos and write letters. I'm also the one who plans our dates.

MSG Kumar: She always complains about having to plan, but I know she likes it. She will take months to research – not just for overseas trips but local ones too.

She also has a habit she picked up from the Army – everything must follow the schedule. If she plans to leave the hotel at 9.30am, at exactly 9.30am we must go. I'm a free-and-easy traveler. I like to walk around and see what interests me.

3WO Lim: I must have the TOE – table of events. I need to know what I'm doing or I will feel very frustrated. So, it's a good thing that he's willing to follow my plans!

3WO Lim appreciates that MSG Kumar is willing to show her his secret childish side. In turn, he takes care of her by handling the household chores.

What's the best thing about being married to each other?

3WO Lim: Marriage is not just about us, it's also about our families. I like that his family is not strict—

MSG Kumar: —about me lah, not my family! Aiyah!

3WO Lim: I married you because your family is good what! If your mother was the very strict sort who picked on her daughters-in-law, then we wouldn't be sitting here already!

MSG Kumar: From day one, Emerald and I had this connection where we could talk about anything under the sun. I want to share everything with her, good or bad.

3WO Lim: He has a side that he will only show to me. For instance, he looks very fierce and strict to others, but with me he can behave like a child. I'm like a mother taking care of a kid. (laughs) But he takes care of me in his own way too, like doing the chores. I also like to cook, and he washes up for me.

MSG Kumar: We make up for each other's shortcomings.

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