In the early 1900s, there was an traditional saying in northern India that the only way a bride could return to her home village was as a widow.
Today, Surrey’s Khun Khun family laughs about it as a stern-sounding Punjabi version of “Till Death Do You Part.”
They need not worry.
On Feb. 18, four days after Valentine’s Day, Darshan Singh Khun Khun and his wife Amar Kaur celebrated their 80th anniversary.
The two 92-year-olds, who live with their children and grandchildren in Newton just a block from the Guru Nanak gurdwara, exchanged gold rings.
Asked it they still love each other after all these years, Darshan says yes and Amar answers, “Maybe I do,” with a coy smile.
As grandson Jaskaran Singh translates, his grandmother Amar explains how her head was covered in fancy embroidered cloth during the entire wedding ceremony in 1937.
Her groom didn’t get to see her face for the first time until after the ceremony was over.
Arranged marriages were common in India. The couple’s son Kuljit says he’s heard of marriages of kids as young as five or six. “Newlyweds” that young lived in separate homes until they were old enough to live with their spouses.
Darshan, whose father died when he was just three months old, lived in the village of Shabazpur in the district of Hoshiarpur.
By the age of 10, he worked the family farm, growing wheat, rice and sugar cane.
Darshan Singh Khun Khun and his wife Amar Kaur (both seated) with three of their four kids, Surinder (top left), Jasvir and Kuljit. This photo was taken in India in 1974.
The marriage was arranged by an acquaintance who knew both families, which were, as custom demanded, from different villages.
The new spouses were both 12, and their relationship developed slowly, as there was lots of hard work to do around the house and in the fields.
They had their first of four children in 1949. By that time, they were twice the age of when they married.
Over the years, their farm continued to grow and prosper, and Darshan was the first in the area to buy a tractor.
In 1981, most of the family moved to Canada, first settling in Williams Lake and spending half of each year working at a berry farm in Abbotsford.
They moved to Surrey in 1989 and retired in 1991.
“They worked hard all their lives,” says Jaskaran, who adds that despite their limited knowledge of English, they earned respect in Abbotsford.
“They proved themselves on the farm.”
They still both wake up each day at around 4 a.m. and until last year, walked to the temple together to volunteer.
Amar was injured in a car accident a few years ago and now has some difficulty getting around, but Darshan still goes to the temple.
They have 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.