The Different Types of Love: Darius Cheung & Roshni Mahtani
In this series, we explore the different forms and facets of love that exist in this world. Some may be more straightforward, while others can’t be easily defined. But love holds no boundaries and the celebration of the human heart should be captured with richness, colour and dimension.
What were your first impressions of one another?
ROSHNI: My first impression was that he was very Singaporean and very different from me, although we both run internet consumer-facing companies that are at the same stage, with around the same number of employees. I got to know him first in a professional setting, and our work values are very similar but the way we operate is very different.
DARIUS: So my first impression of her was at an event right here at Blk 71. I thought she was hot.
ROSHNI: [laughs] I think I hosted the event and was part of the organising committee.
Was it a tech event?
DARIUS: Yeah. I also found her to be confident, borderline arrogant and aggressive. She definitely stood out.
How did it transition from being acquaintances to dating each other?
DARIUS: We got to know each better because we were part of the ACE (Action Community for Entrepreneurship) forum organised by Der Shing [Lim]. It’s basically group therapy for entrepreneurs where we get together once a month to talk about our problems and in theory, find solutions to them. Although we were members of this forum, we weren’t really friends. I think she must have thought that I was sloppy and did not have a high opinion of me! Finally, one day, I asked her out under the guise of a business event. I said: ‘Hey, I have this thing that I am going to, you wanna come and meet some interesting people?’ And she said yes.
ROSHNI: [laughs] He offered to pick me up and I said: ‘No, it’s okay, I will see you there.’
How long did you date before getting married?
ROSHNI: 10 months.
DARIUS: I am not sure if you call that dating [laughs].
ROSHNI: He never left after the second date. He moved in and we started living together.
Whoa. Was the business event your first date?
DARIUS: No, the event allowed her to finally get to know me in a different setting. After that, she went to India for 2 to 3 weeks, and we started chatting a lot. When she came back about a month later, we went on our first proper date. That was Day 1. Day 2, I moved in and I’ve not stayed a night away from her.
That’s such a Hollywood story.
DARIUS: Day 6, we decided to get married [laughs].
When did you realise that you were in love with her?
DARIUS: It’s hard to pinpoint but I think when she was in India and the conversations that we had.
How about you, Roshni?
ROSHNI: After the first proper date. It was ten hours long.
DARIUS: It was the day of Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral. We went to watch a music-based movie and it was terrible! Somehow we continue to do that for some reason.
ROSHNI: We met for lunch and I allowed him to pick me up [laughs]. Still, I was kind of a bit bochup. He was all dressed up and I was wearing shorts.
DARIUS: Normally, it’s the other way around. I am always in shorts and a t-shirt.
ROSHNI: Initially, I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not. We had a lot of fun when I was his plus-one, but I wasn’t too sure if there were sparks. When I was in India, I looked forward to meeting him and I was excited to hear from him every day. I would look at my phone 10 times to see if he had pinged me. If he did, during a meeting, I would get distracted and write a cute reply back. So it felt very teenage-like because I wasn’t in control of myself in that sense, but yet I wasn’t sure because it’s Darius. It felt damn weird and wrong… But I think within the first 2 to 3 hours of our first date, I knew. I thought to myself: Oh my God, this guy is freaking amazing. Now it has been 4 and a half years later and it still feels just as magical as our first date.
So you knew that Darius was ‘the one’ after your first date?
ROSHNI: Yeah, I think so.
Do you believe in ‘the one’?
ROSHNI: No, but I have a checklist [laughs].
DARIUS: [laughs] ‘The one’ by elimination.
ROSHNI: My checklist had 42 things and Darius was very well aware of it—even all my forum members. I told them that I would be a much more efficient CEO if I could sort out my love life, so I recruited all of them to help me as I was on a mission. Since the purpose of the forum was to help us become more efficient CEOs, I shared my list with everyone and they thought that I was deranged [laughs].
DARIUS: She looked at it like a proper sales process. You guys are all my referrals, I will screen the prospects and funnel them after the first, second or third date… and eliminate them if they don’t fit the criteria… target 6 months to find somebody.
ROSHNI: Ha ha yeah, I wanted to find the perfect husband in 6 months.
You really knew what you wanted.
ROSHNI: My checklist would include things like ‘cannot wear a cap’, ‘cannot share an apartment with someone’…
DARIUS: I failed because I was sharing an apartment with someone at the time.
ROSHNI: Ultimately, the person had to pass 36 out of 42 things for me to go on a second date. But the interesting thing was that a lot of entrepreneurs fit the criteria in terms of what I was looking for. I wanted to date a guy with an engineering background because I realised that I get along best with engineers. I wanted to date someone who was working in a start-up or was an entrepreneur or was a VC, because I needed someone who was going through the same journey as me. I also knew that I needed to date someone of a similar faith. My philosophy leans towards Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Sikhism. If I met someone whom I liked, but they didn’t match my religious inclinations, I just wouldn’t go on a second date. So when Darius asked me out, I actually went through the list and he kinda passed it—that was why we explored further.
DARIUS: I never thought that I would get married to be honest. Roshni changed my mind.
I suppose love does that to you.
DARIUS: I don’t think it’s about love. I have been in love before. It’s about vision. Back then, I didn’t believe that I would get married because I wanted to experience as much as I could in life—and I thought being married to one person, automatically limits it. With Roshni, not only does she not limit it, but she probably expands it.
ROSHNI: I don’t think there is anyone in the world who knows the real me, but Darius. It’s astounding because he knows me one hundred per cent and yet he is still in love with me [laughs]. I knew I was crazy about Darius when I wanted our kid to be a hundred per cent like him.
DARIUS: We ended up having a kid that is a hundred per cent like her [laughs], which is awesome and fascinating to have two Roshnis.
As successful entrepreneurs, what do you think is the key to a successful marriage?
DARIUS: I need to think about this, because it comes so naturally to us.
ROSHNI: Respect for each other, and one hundred per cent trust. I trust that Darius would be the most competent person to handle anything—whether it be my business, my finances, my child, and my parents.
DARIUS: I’m thinking of all my friends’ marriages in terms of what has failed and what has worked—and draw commonalities from that. What Roshni said is true about us, and it’s mutual, but I don’t know if I would generalise it for everyone. But what I can say is that in a marriage, it’s important to have a shared life with the same outlook.
What would be a dealbreaker?
DARIUS: [laughs] For her? Nose digging!
That’s an interesting answer.
DARIUS: Sometimes it’s the small things like that, right?
ROSHNI: [long pause] I think if Darius genuinely did not care for our child. I would not have wanted to be married to a guy who was not interested in being an involved father. That’s very important to me because having a child isn’t just a shared responsibility, but I want my daughter (or if we have a son in the future) to grow up with the right role models. This doesn’t mean seeing mum and dad in love or seeing mum and dad being successful, but knowing that our child feels loved by mum and dad independently.
DARIUS: For me, it’s a breach in trust. And we are not talking about lies. When you marry someone, it is a hundred per cent investment of yourself into the person. Since the reliance is so high, if there is a breach of trust in terms of intentional deception, it just breaks everything.
ROSHNI: For example, if I were to decide to buy a property under my name and not tell him, and later on, he finds out about it.
DARIUS: It still depends on the reason. There may be some good reason why it isn’t a breach of trust.
What do you do that annoys her?
DARIUS: Oh, this is going to take hours.
ROSHNI: I’m a highly irritable person.
DARIUS: Ha ha, there you go. You should ask her the same question too.
ROSHNI: What annoys me is when Darius wants something but he doesn’t say it explicitly. I’m a very direct person and I really believe in radical candour as much as possible. If I want something, I will explicitly ask for it. Darius believes in ‘sacrifice’—it’s a very Chinese thing. I hate that, because dude, if you want it, I will get it for you. But don’t make me second-guess what you want. Sometimes Darius believes that showing love is about sacrificing—I don’t like that because I would want him to be more selfish as well.
What do you do that annoys him?
DARIUS: Absolutely nothing. She is perfect [laughs].
ROSHNI: [laughs] No, you get annoyed when I’m snappy or when I talk rudely. He finds me rude.
DARIUS: You’re rude.
ROSHNI: Yes, I am rude. Why am I rude? I think I’m very, very impatient.
Speaking of sacrifice, what’s the biggest sacrifice that you had to make in your marriage?
ROSHNI: The initial part was getting my parents’ approval. I come from a small society where people are expected to marry from our own exact caste or sect. My parents were very shocked, surprised and a little horrified that I was marrying someone who wasn’t part of my culture. I had to give my family space in order for them to accept my decision. Now, my parents are closer to him than they are to me. So it all worked out. I wouldn’t say I have made any sacrifices and my life has become monumentally better with him in so many ways. I have someone I consider to be my true equal, intellectually… I’m mildly competitive and I remember a few months ago…
DARIUS: ‘Mildly’ being the understatement of the year.
ROSHNI: I woke him up in the middle of the night to do an IQ test. And I am very happy to know that our IQs are identical.
DARIUS: I had to sacrifice two hours of sleep for that! [laughs] Okay, initially for me, I did not have an eating buddy because she is mostly vegetarian. But over time, we have found common ground in terms of the foods that we both enjoy.
ROSHNI: Now that our child is older, she can eat more things with dad.
DARIUS: I’m looking forward to my daughter being my eating buddy.
When did do you feel closest to each other?
ROSHNI: When we are playing with our daughter, when she comes and disturbs us in the morning.
What’s your favourite imperfect thing about each other?
DARIUS: That she is rude! It’s quite cute! No one would be able to stand her [laughs]. Only me.
ROSHNI: I genuinely think Darius is perfect for me, so whatever anyone believes to be his imperfections, are not imperfections to me. There is not a single thing I want to change about him. I genuinely like my husband.
DARIUS: How about my clothes?
ROSHNI: But I changed that already.
So you changed his entire wardrobe?
ROSHNI: Yes, when we first started dating. I could not deal with his wardrobe.
What was the first thing that you threw out?
DARIUS: No, shorts.
ROSHNI: I’m practical, so where he needs comfort, I’m okay with it.
DARIUS: She would love for me to wear much nicer shoes, but she also understands that I have a bad knee, so I need to wear very comfortable shoes.
ROSHNI: I would never ever force him knowing his circumstance, but if he is just being a lazy ass… please have some style.
Who do you think has more power in the relationship?
ROSHNI: I genuinely think that it’s equal.
DARIUS: [laughs] I have to agree, right? I hope that answers your question!
ROSHNI: Rubbish. Both of us are very rational and we go to each other for everything. And we want the other person to be happy. I will not make a decision if I know that it will upset him and I expect him to do the same. It comes from a place of respect. I don’t ever see powerplay happening. There are times when I defer all decision-making to him, because I’m checked out and I don’t want to think. Then there are times when he lets me make all the decisions. I pretty much make all the decisions when it comes to our daughter.
DARIUS: Because you’re much more educated than I am.
ROSHNI: Parenting is my interest. If I don’t have a qualified judgement, then I will tell him, ‘Let’s do it together.’
DARIUS: Most daily things, I am quite bochup, so it might feel like she makes more decisions than me. However, if there are certain things that she takes too long to come to a decision, then I will make a suggestion. There’s a lot of dynamism going on rather than who has more power.
Do both of you consider yourselves to be a “power couple”?
ROSHNI: We hear that, but we don’t see it. To me, he’s just Darius. And to him, I’m just Roshni. We know each other’s flaws.
DARIUS: We see each other struggle much more than anything else.
DARIUS: If anything, we talk about our struggles all day.
ROSHNI: I’m not sure if we see each other as “powerful” much less a “power couple”. We are constantly in problem-solving mode.
As an interracial couple, do you have to deal with any form of bias or discrimination in your day-to-day lives?
ROSHNI: I haven’t experienced it personally, except for the rental problems (landlords discriminating against Indians) we had encountered in the past. Eventually, we bought our own place so I never had to experience that again. A lot of people don’t think I’m Singaporean which is really annoying. Everyone thinks that Darius is the true-blue Singaporean and he knows everything about Singapore, while I’m just the “foreigner”. But in reality, I am the true-blue local girl who knows everything from our political system to our governance. I’m very invested in Singapore and being Singaporean—and I often feel that I’m not treated as one just because I’m not Chinese.
DARIUS: Like she mentioned that one time with the rental thing…
That made the news.
DARIUS: Yeah, that’s very common for Indians, which a sad thing that happens in Singapore. Other than that, I think there are some stereotypes, but they aren’t necessarily bad because it’s often true? Roshni thinks that Chinese people don’t like to talk about their feelings—it’s kinda true.
ROSHNI: Whereas Indians are more emotive, creative…
DARIUS: A lot more drama [laughs].
ROSHNI: I always laugh because in many ways, Darius understands Indians better than I do as he spends a lot of time with them.
DARIUS: Yeah. My colleagues, housemates, co-founders in the last start-ups… in fact my last start-up, eighty per cent of the team were Indians.
DARIUS: I watch more Bollywood than she does.
ROSHNI: It’s really weird because growing up, most of my friends were Chinese. He’s more Indian than me for sure. I think our daughter will learn the Indian culture through him, not me.
On that note, how do go about educating your daughter about her mixed identity?
ROSHNI: For now, she considers herself to be Indian because she likes Indian outfits more than Chinese outfits. And she’s crazy about chapati, loves roti… she knows that she is Chindian; she learns Mandarin in school and speaks it. She is very close to her nai nai and her cousins, but if you were to ask her to choose, she would always say, “I want to be Indian. I don’t want to be Chinese.”
DARIUS: It’s cool with me.
ROSHNI: She can choose whatever she wants.
Darius, you said in an interview before that “She’s the superhero. I’m the sidekick.” What can men do to support women in the workplace and at home?
DARIUS: In my opinion, I’m just catching up to be her equal. I think in many cases for reasons of ego or social pressure, women who are more talented, driven or ambitious don’t get the opportunity to switch roles with men in the relationship. It rarely happens for the man to be the supportive player. I see it as more internal than external and it requires a change in mind-set.
There is this saying: “Men marry women with the intention that they will stay the same. Women marry men with the idea that they will change.” What are your thoughts on that?
ROSHNI: That statement doesn’t make sense to me. I want Darius to stay exactly the same.
DARIUS: [laughs] Women are much more complex than men. The multiplicity of women is what makes them beautiful. For example, Roshni is a CEO, a wife and a mother. Being a mum is a new thing—and I have had the privilege to watch her grow into that. Ultimately, I think it’s about having multiplicity.
If you were to ever lose your memory, what’s one thing you never want your other half to forget about you?
ROSHNI: [long pause] It’s not just about me, but the feeling of home and of family. One of the things that Darius has always struggled with is not always having a home. He grew up in hostels and moved around a lot.
DARIUS: I echo that because it’s a strange thing for me to realise that I never really had a home. Quite recently, we went plant shopping and it was the first time I ever bought plants. I never had a home long enough to grow some plants. It’s new for me… like this is our place? We own this? We are going to be here indefinitely? I’m experiencing being a homeowner for the first time.
ROSHNI: When Darius bought property before, it was always an investment, but never to live in or to build a home. I want him to remember that he had a home.
DARIUS: And I want Roshni to remember that she has someone who listens to her.