Family, Health, Relationships

She ran away from home to marry drug addict

By Christine Leow , 25 May 2021

Ranjit Kaur did not have a good relationship with her own family, especially not with her mother.

She and her younger sister “couldn’t have friends or communicate with anyone”.

“We couldn’t go out.

“I had only two Punjabi dresses to wear, and only one pair of shoes and one bag. We were not allowed to wear jeans.”

“I was looking for love. Coming from a traditional family with strict parents, you don’t get love because you are a girl.”

When Kaur started working at 16, her salary went straight into her mother’s bank account. She was not allowed to have any money of her own.

“I ate breakfast at home and my mum would pack lunch for me. We couldn’t eat what we wanted.”

Kaur, now 55, resorted to working from 7am to 11pm so she could stay away from home as much as possible.

Looking for love

She was 20 when she was introduced to Ranjit Singh, then 24. It was love at first sight.

Ranjit Kaur and her husband Ranjit Singh met when she was 20 and he was 24. She did not know he was addicted to drugs at the time. All photos courtesy of Ranjit Kaur unless otherwise stated.

“He was very loving, very caring. He would call me and check up on me: Did I have my breakfast? Did I get home safely?”

On hindsight, Kaur realises why the attraction was so strong.

“I was looking for love. Coming from a traditional family with strict parents, you don’t get love because you are a girl.”

Hopeless devotion

Within months of dating, Singh got arrested for drug consumption and was sentenced to nine months in prison.  

Says Kaur: “I was searching for him and his brother told me he was in prison.”

“I told him I wouldn’t leave him. Everybody should be given a second chance.”

Up till then, she had no idea Singh was a drug addict.

“Now I know how a person looks, his behaviour and actions when he is addicted. But back then I had no clue.”

She visited Singh in prison and he gave her a chance to break up with him.

“I told him I wouldn’t leave him. Everybody should be given a second chance.”

Kaur admits that she was naïve. She had not expected that getting out of drug addiction could be so difficult.

“My father used to drink alcohol and he gave it up within a day the moment he developed high blood pressure. I thought: If my dad can change, other people can change too.”

Kaur (2nd from left) and Singh (centre) with their sons who are now (from left to right) 32, 16 and 29. When one of their sons went through a rebellious stage, “going out in the night, drinking, fighting, mixing with the wrong people and not doing well in school”, Singh spoke to him. “My son realised that his friends would not always be there for him.”

Kaur decided to come clean with her family. She told her father she was in love.

“They were devastated that something like that could happen when they had been so strict.”

Her mother arranged to send her to India to be married.

“I was thinking: Either she takes me in or I will commit suicide.”

That was when Kaur ran away from home in the dead of night with just 10 cents – enough money to make one phone call. 

“I called my (future) mother-in-law and told her that I had left my house. I was thinking: Either she takes me in or I will commit suicide.”

Thankfully, the older woman let Kaur live with her family.

When Singh was released from prison, the two registered their marriage. She was 21 and he was 25.

A rocky marriage

Married life did not bring the freedom Kaur had hoped for.

Her mother-in-law was as strict as her mother. On top of holding down a job, Kaur was expected to take care of the household. So, Kaur cooked and cleaned for the family and packed meals for her father-in-law to take to work every day.

When Singh was 12, schoolmates introduced him to smoking. Soon, it progressed to drinking. By 14, he was into drugs.

Singh was back on heroin. Kaur had no friends. But she did not blame her husband.

“When your parents are so strict, there is no communication, no love. He was looking for love too.”

Singh was a timid, quiet child who did not have many friends. When he was 12, schoolmates introduced him to smoking. Soon, it progressed to drinking. By 14, he was into drugs.

“It made him feel better when he drank and took drugs. He had more friends. So he continued.”

A year into the marriage, their first child was born. Fatherhood did not change Singh.

When Kaur was pregnant with their second child, she gave her husband an ultimatum – get clean or she would leave. Singh took her words to heart and went into rehabilitation at The Helping Hand to kick his habit before the baby was born.

“When someone is on drugs, they become very self-centred, they can’t understand anything around them.

“The addiction takes over them fully. Drugs is like a disease, like cancer.”

Until his arrest and imprisonment, Singh had been running his own carwash business. The business closed down during his prison term.

“He stole from home. All my jewellery was gone.”

He worked odd jobs but all the money went to his drug habit. When his daily-waged job as a courier could not pay for the drugs, he stole.

“He stole from home. All my jewellery was gone.”

Despite their dire financial situation, the young couple managed to buy an HDB flat so they could make a life of their own outside the strict confines of Singh’s family.

Flyer in the public toilet

But Singh continued to be addicted to heroin even though he wanted to quit.

The couple sought spiritual help when all else failed. They visited the temples of different religions and even went to Malaysia to see mediums.

“At times, I had to borrow money from my boss. Colleagues would buy lunch for me.”

But the addiction continued.

Kaur took a second job to supplement the family income because her husband became so addicted to drugs that he could no longer hold down a job.

Her first job did not pay well. She had to give money to her husband for his addiction plus there were expenses for their son.

“At times, I had to borrow money from my boss because my husband took my money. Colleagues would buy lunch me.”

Kaur (second from left) and Singh (second from right) with their sons and their future daughter-in-law (third from left). Their sons have successfully stayed away from drugs. “They even help their friends who are in trouble with drugs. They get their father to talk to them,” says Kaur.

Then, the police showed up at their door because Singh failed to pay his parking fine and road tax. Soon, narcotics officers also turned up. To avoid them, they moved back to their respective parents’ homes.

When Kaur became pregnant with their second child, she knew drastic measures were needed.

“I told him, ‘I think we have to part ways because I can’t have you with me and not being of any help.’”

Then, the unexpected happened.

Singh was smoking heroin in a public toilet when he saw a flyer about a cocaine addict sharing how God had transformed his life.

Singh was smoking heroin in a public toilet when he saw a flyer about a cocaine addict who had kicked the habit and was going to share his testimony of how God had transformed his life.

Desperate, Singh attended the talk at a church.

“He walked in and he started crying when the preacher was talking.”

A member of the church who was helping out approached Singh and befriended him.

“My husband told him, ‘I’m on drugs. I need help.’ And this man started to look for help for him.”

The man introduced Singh to The Helping Hand – a move that would change Singh’s life. Now, 29 years on, the two men are still friends.

A helping hand

After Singh enrolled in THH’s stay-in programme, he called his wife and asked for one more chance.

It was a request Kaur was familiar with.

Reluctant at first, she eventually relented, visiting Singh every Sunday. “I had no choice. I had no friends, no parents to support me. I only had him.”

Then, as the weeks became months, Kaur started to see a change in her husband.

“He decided to accept God and put Him in the centre of his life. When he told me that he had given up drugs, I couldn’t believe it.

“But then I saw him healthy, looking good, taking care of himself. He was so different from the way he used to be.

“When he told me that he had given up drugs, I couldn’t believe it.”

“It took me three to four years to believe that he had really changed because how could this God actually change someone’s life?”

Singh stopped going to places that would trigger his addiction.

Says Kaur: “If he wanted to go out, he would ask me to follow him. He didn’t want to meet his old friends or be alone in places that would trigger him to take drugs again.”

It was like this for a few years.

The programme was so good for Singh that when he graduated in nine months, Kaur convinced him to stay on as a helper.

Singh had wanted to get a job elsewhere to support the family. But Kaur did not mind the modest allowance he would get at THH, not if her husband could remain drug-free.

“At The Hiding Place, there are people around him, counselling him, talking to him. He needed that.”

“He had tried to kick the habit at home but it was impossible. He could get drugs easily.

“At THH, there are people around him, counselling him, talking to him. There are devotions, prayers, Bible reading. He needed that. It cannot happen outside.”

By then, Kaur was no longer working because she needed to care for their two sons.

To supplement the family income, they rented out one room of their HDB flat. THH founder Robert Yeo gave Singh a motorcycle so he could commute cheaply. An anonymous donor sponsored the family $200 a month for five years. Singh was also allowed to bring lunch and dinner from THH home for his family.

The family learnt to live simply. There were no shopping sprees. Outings were trips to the playground. Kaur put her children in cloth napkins in the day and toilet-trained them early so they could save on diapers.  

“People asked me how we survived. It was just God’s grace. God is really good. Our bills were always paid, we were happy that there was food to eat. We were contented.”

The car ride

Kaur was going to church weekly with her husband by this time. He was a Christian but she still had her reservations.

“I was afraid of what my community would think of me. I was already an embarrassment because my husband was a drug addict.

“If I gave up my religion to become a Christian, I would be an embarrassment to my parents.”

“ They didn’t know me, yet they loved me so much. They didn’t care that my husband was a drug addict.”

Three years in, she was on her way home from a church camp in Malaysia. Seated in the pastor’s car with his wife and Singh, she received a personal sermon from the pastor.

“He shared Bible verses about how God died for our sins, who God is and where we go when we die.

“By the time we got to the Singapore customs, I said, ‘Okay, I’m ready to become a Christian.’

“I could see the difference between Christians and other people. They didn’t know me, yet they loved me so much. They didn’t care that my husband was a drug addict.

“When I was in trouble, who was there for me among the people I knew? Nobody. So why should I care what they thought?”

In time, Kaur started working at THH as a business manager. She is currently in charge of their orchid sales to raise funds for rehabilitation programmes for former drug addicts.

At the halfway house, she has reached out to some of the residents on her own time, listening to them, counselling them and, sometimes, sharing hard truths from her own experience.

The family with Kaur’s colleague (far right) from THH whom they befriended. At THH, the men have devotions, prayer and Bible reading besides drug rehabilitation.

Her difficult journey supporting her husband’s battle against drugs has given her a deeper understanding of the struggles of addicts. Her faith in God has given her a special capacity to love.

“Knowing the true, living God transformed my life. I was hurt and angry, very vengeful.

“God slowly, through His grace and mercy, moulded me.”


This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in Salt&Light.

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