Sunday, June 10, 2001

The Province • News

A11

SPECIAL REPORT
swore to return and marry Mithu. “It was so hard to see her go,” recalled Mithu.

The secret marriage
Jassi needed time to devise a plan to break the news to her family. She set up a network of Lower Mainland addresses and telephone numbers for Mithu to call and write. In the meantime, the family’s shortlist of candidates was getting shorter. They had their eyes on a relative in the Punjab. Jassi’s secret letter drop-offs included the beauty salon where she worked, an address on Hermon Drive in Vancouver and the home of Debra Logan. Logan had at one time rented a basement suite from Jassi’s family. “She told me about how she had to keep it a secret … She explained about her family and their culture and how she needed to communicate with him through me … using my address and phone,” said Logan. Logan said Jassi was fearful of what would happen if her family found out. “She was very much in love with him … It was so ‘She was very painful for her … It much in love was just sad … She was something spe- with him … cial,” said Logan. It was so Jassi had a videopainful for tape of Mithu and showed it to Logan. her … It was “It is hard to speak just sad … about it now … She would be laughing She was one minute and crysomething ing the next … I would hug her … She special’ had no one in her — Debra Logan, family she could talk to,” said Logan. who helped the In one of her letters forbidden lovers to to Mithu, Jassi communicate expressed her fear of getting caught. “My sweetheart, I miss you very much. But what can I do? I cannot come to India yet. I hope I can come in the future. I got your two letters, but I could not answer back. I am very sad. “Dear, please do not write me a letter back to the address I sent you. I almost got caught. I will send you a different address later on, OK? I will get in very much trouble if I get caught.” In April 1999, Jassi and her mother went on another bridegroom-hunting trip to India. Malkiat Kaur did not know why her daughter was so excited. Back in Khosa, Jassi and Mithu made plans to marry, hoping that this would force her family to recognize the union. Accompanied by two of Mithu’s close friends, they went to the courthouse in Baba Bakala, about two hours from Khosa on the road to the holy city of Amritsar. There, in front of a court official, Jassi and Mithu were officially married. Mithu’s family had given their blessings. Jassi’s family knew nothing. “I know only that they will not allow us to marry because of the difference of poverty and richness,” said Mithu. “Jassi also had the same feeling — that’s why she and

On their honeymoon, Jassi and Mithu took many snapshots that spoke of their love for one another.
Jassi had also reached the age where girls like her become a topic of conversation among family members looking to find a suitable match. The family held parties with a deckedout Jassi as the centrepiece while mothers and aunts eyed the crowd. When the parties wound down, the remarks about potential suitors would range from unimaginable flattery to downright cruelty. As the wheels of this age-old cultural practice turned, the plan for Jassi became clear. Her chosen husband would be a man of the same, if not higher, caste and socioeconomic standing. A man able to further consolidate the family’s wealth and reputation. The hunt for a bridegroom would move to Punjab, because it was proving unsuccessful in Canada. It was a simple plan, but it had a fatal flaw. Jassi was already in love.

One of the letters Jassi wrote after she returned to B.C. with her mother, who did not know of the husband Jassi was leaving behind in India.

The promise to return
Malkiat Kaur went with her daughter on the 1995 trip to India. It was a fun-filled holiday for Jassi as she spent her time linking up with old friends and cousins in the village where her mother was born. Khosa is a vibrant agricultural hamlet dotted with “Immigrate to Canada” signs put up by consultants who help thousands of locals with visa applications. Most of

Jassi (left) in happier days, at a party attended by singer Kuldip Manak (centre).
them end up in B.C. It was a place where Jassi’s uncles were prominent leaders and landowners. They knew the police and the politicians and everyone knew them. Jassi relished her freedom and time away from the watchful eyes of her Canadian family. On a shopping trip to Jagroan, she saw the rugged Mithu. A cousin played Cupid and the duo met, talked and fell in love. The few who knew say it was love at first sight. Eventually Jassi and her mother had to return to Canada. On the day she left, Jassi

Continued on Page A12

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