A match made at UTM: Secret romance began on campus

Puneet Kohli and Imre Gams pose in their wedding attire.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 11:46am
Blake Eligh

From a  secret romance to a fairy tale ending—the love story of U of T Mississauga alumni Puneet Kohli and Imre Gams has it all.

Gams was a self-described shy third-year English and history major when he signed up for a children’s literature course at UTM in 2010. Kohli, who was in the second year of her studies in history, English and anthropology, first noticed Gams in class. “He had never spoken in class before and he made a very intelligent comment about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” she says.

Kohli later spotted Gams standing with a mutual friend in the line-up for coffee in the Davis Building and finagled an introduction.  “I had never approached a guy before, but I started talking to the acquaintance so that she would have to introduce me to Imre,” she says. “I was very nervous and we were almost at the cashier, so I mustered up the courage and asked him a line I had rehearsed the whole time in my head, ‘Hey, aren't you in my English class?’”

Kohli’s opening line worked, and the pair looked for each other at the next class before finally meeting in the campus library. “I am 100 per cent certain he was looking for me in the quiet study area,” Kohli remembers. “He offered to walk me to my class, but we never made it—it was the only class I missed at UTM—because we were having a great conversation.”

It wasn’t long before Gams and Kohli were spending lots of time together. “We both enjoyed the studying, and had a lot of study dates in the library,” Gams remembers. He says he knew almost immediately that Kohli was the one for him. However, Gams, whose heritage is Japanese and Hungarian, and Kohli, who is Punjabi, were worried about the potential pressure that their different cultural backgrounds might put on the blooming relationship.

“I am the eldest child and only daughter to a first-generation immigrant family. Dating was discouraged as the focus was on schooling,” Kohli says. “In such an environment I did not feel comfortable letting my parents know about our relationship, especially since at the beginning, Imre and I were getting to know each other.”

Kohli met Gam’s family soon after, but it would be another six years before they would spill the beans to Puneet’s family. After graduating in 2012, Gams went to work with Apple’s marketing team, helping to manage marketing and corporate culture programs across Ontario, while Kohli moved to London, and graduated from the University of Western Ontario law program in 2015. Through it all, the pair kept their secret close. “It was very difficult to keep him a secret from my family as I am very close to them,” Kohli says. “It felt like I was living a double life, and I hated lying.”

Gams and Kohli finally revealed their romance to Kohli’s family in 2016. “I changed my mind when I knew that I loved Imre and that I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life,” Kohli says. “My parents saw how happy Imre and I were together and learned themselves how great of a person he is. Imre has become an important part of the family now and has his own strong relationships with each of my close family members.”

“All doubts vanished when I met her family,” Gams says. “They welcomed me with open arms.”

The pair made their union official in June 2017 with a multi-cultural celebration in Kleinberg, Ontario that included several days of Sikh-Punjabi wedding traditions. At the reception, the bride and groom were hoisted aloft on chairs as guests danced the Hora, a nod to Gams’ Jewish heritage. For their honeymoon, Gams and Kohli toured the length of Japan, stopping in Yokohama to visit Gams’ grandmother and other relatives who were unable to travel to Canada for the ceremony.

Kohli and Gams are now building a life together in Milton, Ontario. Gams, who volunteers as a mentor and speaker at UTM alumni events, swapped his career in technology to work as a day trader. Kohli is legal counsel, with a focus on commercial real estate, for regional public transit authority Metrolinx.

Gams says that before meeting Kohli, he often wondered what his future held. “I worried so much about finding the right person, but it’s not a treasure hunt,” he says. “When you’re ready for it, and love and accept yourself, that opens a lot of doors and opportunities. The person for you might be behind one of those doorways.”