Their perfect match started as an arranged marriage
ARRANGED marriages may seem like a relic of the past, but 10 years ago that was the reality for Kay Kaur and Tarnjeet Singh.
Nothing prepared them for the news that their matchmaking parents wanted them to marry, despite never having met.
The owners of popular Cairns Indian restaurant Marinades were living in different countries when they found out.
Tarnjeet, or TJ, was driving taxis in Sydney at the time. Kay was a university-educated lecturer working in TJ's home town, the historic Indian city of Amritsar.
"We only met 21 days before the wedding," says TJ. "People laugh at us when we tell them. They can't believe us."
Kay says it all started when her aunt and TJ's dad got into conversation one day.
"His dad said: 'I'm looking for a girl for my son. Do you know anyone?'."
The next day, Kay's aunt turned up with TJ's parents at the historic Khalsa College, while Kay was teaching a class.
"I had no idea they were there to see me as a would-be bride for someone. And TJ didn't have a clue his parents were looking for a girl back in India," Kay says.
He found out the next day.
"It was a bit of a shock," he says.
"My dad said you can do whatever you like with yourself in your life. The only promise I want from you is that you're going to come home and we're going to find a bride for you in the traditional way."
TJ was surprisingly compliant.
"I was like 'OK dad'. What do you say?"
With TJ's parents approving of Kay, photos were exchanged and other opinions sought. Kay's brother was living in Melbourne and visited TJ in Sydney.
"He said he looks decent to me. The rest is your decision. If you have somebody else in your life, just let us know," Kay recalls.
TJ's Sydney-based sister and brother-in-law met Kay during a visit back to India.
"I said to them 'you know what I'm looking for, what kind of person I need in my life'," TJ says.
Kay quickly got the tick of approval.
"My brother-in-law rang back and said 'she is a good catch'."
TJ says he trusted his brother-in-law and sister's judgment more than his mother's.
"She wanted me to get married even when I was in 12th grade."
The first tentative steps towards their life together began by email and phone.
"I remember the first conversation we had," Kay says. "It was very difficult because you don't know who you're talking to."
But they learned enough to know they were very similar. Both were practical, level-headed and down-to-earth.
"I did not want a fancy girl, full of makeup and fake smiles, and she is none of those," TJ says.
He also learned she had an MBA from one of India's top universities, Symbiosis.
But what affected him most was seeing her in person for the first time, 21 days before the traditional Indian wedding.
"I still miss that sight. I wasn't able to take a picture. She had a simple black and red printed traditional dress, no makeup on her face, but she was glowing."
Kay's grandmother had a simple, caring message for the couple. "She said: 'If you think this is not the right person to be with, regardless even if it's a day before the wedding, just let us know'," TJ says.
Three weeks later, after five traditional ceremonies and a reception, they were wed.
"We won the lotto," says Kay, who will celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary on February 21. "We say it was a lucky draw."
TJ agrees. He says his parents got it right. "I love her. She loves me."