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Taylor Kattukaran Posts

The Engagement Story, Part 2

< Go back and read Part 1

Now for Anish’s side of the story…

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“ANISH!!” Taylor screamed as I swerved across three lanes and came to a sudden stop on the side of Van Ness Avenue. The clock ticked on to 5am as the sounds of the sleepy city were drowned out by my racing heart.

Thud. Thud.

“What the heck are you doing?” She asked as I unbuckled my seatbelt.

“Need to double check and make sure I brought the GoPro,” I mumbled as I jumped out of the car onto San Francisco’s busiest road, heading towards the trunk. Months of planning would be down the drain if I got on the plane without it. Not the GoPro (new camera) I claimed to be checking on, but the little box that would help me pledge my life to her.

//

The day before, Saturday, had been absolute chaos for me and complete calm for Taylor. I was planning to go completely offline for an entire week for the first time in… well, since I met the Internet.

So at the crack of dawn I began a mad sprint to get all my work done so I could get out of the house around 11am to run some “errands.”

I sure as heck wasn’t about to say, “Hey I need to run to the Tiffany’s store to pick up the ring I bought for you. The one that’s been sitting in the vault for weeks because I’ve been too scared to bring it home.” (Let’s be honest, we all know her nosey curious little butt would have found it in 10 minutes flat.)

That would have been a dead giveaway, so instead I went with, “Tay, why don’t you hang out and have a relaxed day at home and do a little leisurely packing. I’m going to grab a car and go hunting for some new swim shorts.” That seemed believable, right?

The day apart had been perfect. I had been able to make all of my phone calls to reconfirm plans, spent an hour with the awesome ladies at the store in Union Square (now great buddies of mine given the countless hours I had spent with them over the past few months) getting things organized, and picked up some of the other things I needed before we left.

Oh and yea, I periodically popped into a clothing store, grabbed a pair of swim shorts (along with shirts, flip flops, etc as the day progressed), snapped a picture in the dressing room and asked for her opinion! You know…to keep her off the scent.

Seven hours later, I pulled up in-front of our apartment contemplating how to get the ring into the apartment unseen.

Tay called just as I was pulling up and asked me to stay put and not park the car so that I could take her to Target to grab some last minute stuff.

I was sitting in a completely empty rental car. There was a grand total of zero places I could hide the obscenely recognizable blue bag without a high-probability of it being found. No place under the seat. No place to hide it in the back seat. And a trunk that would likely be opened to put our Target bags in… And now she was about sixty seconds away from stepping out of the front door!

Thud. Thud.

I looked through the passenger window and saw her walking up to the front door.

10 seconds.

Thud. Thud.

I opened my door, slipped the bag through the opening and laid it outside on the road just as she opened the passenger door and slipped in. I gave her a quick kiss and jumped out. “I’m going to run upstairs to go to the bathroom before we head out.” I swept up the bag and ran to the apartment trying to keep my body in between the bag and her eyes the entire time.

Whew! Close call.

//

Which brings us back to 5am on Sunday morning, double parked on the side of Van Ness Avenue with me digging through my suitcase in the pitch black night.

There it was, my incredibly out of place ski-socks (that were en route to a tropical beach). Exactly where I put it. The little box hidden in a ball of wool.

I double tapped the little coin pocket in my jeans. Yup, the ring is still there, on my person. The only place it felt safe.

I had checked both about a hundred times but in a moment of panic had to check for the 101 time before we were too far from home. Boy, would it suck to lose the little guy.

Onward. To the airport.

//

It was starting to feel very real.

Months of planning had finally given way to my beautiful lady’s’ hand interlocked with mine with our suitcase in the other as we walked slowly to the security line at the airport. Now, I just needed to get through TSA without setting off the metal detector.

No big deal right?

Well, I had been having nightmares for weeks after I stumbled on a YouTube video of a TSA agent picking out a guy for extra screening and opening his suitcase to do a visual search. The agent had picked up what was *very clearly* an engagement ring box and asked him what it was. Oh and yea, his girlfriend was standing right next to him. I’m sweating just thinking about that again.

My hand subconsciously reached back down to my pocket, tracing its shape with my fingers. It’s still there. But I would now have to very reluctantly part with it, my own, my precious… for just a few minutes.

“Tay, I’m going to pop into the bathroom before we go through security.”

I pulled the ring out, slipped it into a little pouch and tucked it away into my backpack as quickly as I could. I wrapped my arms around it and walked back out.

Suddenly I felt a feeling of uneasiness settle over me. In that moment no one on this planet could relate to Frodo more than I could.

The boarding gate, my Mount Doom. The metal detectors, my Mordor.

“Ma’am, Sir, please place your backpacks on the conveyor belt. Make sure there is nothing in your pockets.” Yea, thanks buddy. There’s nothing in my pockets. But that could be the reason I have a heart attack!

I smiled at Tay, calm on the outside, a wreck on the inside. And then locked my eyes back on the conveyor belt as my backpack disappeared out of sight.

Thud. Thud.

There it was, my backpack waiting for me. Unstolen. I grabbed it and threw my shoes back on.

“Jeez, I have no idea whats going on with my bladder today. Bathroom again. Back in a few.”

“What? Again? Anish!”

As soon as I walked in, I reached into my backpack and pulled it out with a huge sigh of relief. My precious! And in that moment saw how ridiculous I looked in the mirror and laughed. My childhood Lord of the Rings obsession aside, my real precious was standing outside waiting for me. And she was probably pretty annoyed right about now.

As I walked back outside towards her with huge grin on my face and the ring back in my pocket where it belonged, I remember chuckling to myself and thinking, Well, I’ve been to the bathroom twice now without actually going. I hope I don’t have to actually pee anytime soon.

– Anish

On the plane leaving to Hawaii... finally calm but still feeling a certain ring burning a hole in my pocket.
On the plane leaving to Hawaii… finally calm but still feeling a certain ring burning a hole in my pocket.

Read Part 3 >

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The Engagement Story, Part 1

 

Let me begin by saying, this is a three-part story. This is a truly personal story, so we have chosen to keep some big parts of it private between just the two of us. That being said, we’ve been really excited to share this story with all of you –our family and friends spread all over the world.

First, you’ll hear the story from my point of view.  Then, you get the behind-the-scenes look from Anish (yep, he’s writing it!). And finally, we’ll post the photos of the proposal courtesy of the hidden photographer. Shall we begin?

//

I woke up Tuesday morning, August 19, 2014, with a smile on my face. It was going to be a good day. We’d scheduled a spa day and couple’s massages, and then Anish had a fancy dinner planned that night. We were celebrating an important one of the few anniversaries that we celebrate. All good reasons to be happy, happy, happy + we were in Maui. Life felt pretty sweet.

After another all-you-can-eat breakfast, we headed out to spend the morning at the pool. I settled into a lounge chair, soaked up the sun, and may or may not have ordered a mango smoothie and fried green beans as a snack for myself. Anish was in and out of the pool and sneaking sips of my smoothie. We were livin’ the life.

Around noon, we packed up and headed to start the couple’s spa session that Anish had organized for us.

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Ready for a relaxing spa day!

We checked in, settled into our fluffy robes and slippers, and met back in the massage room for 90 minutes of bliss. The massages were done before we knew it and we found ourselves wishing we’d scheduled the 120 minute ones. Massages always fly by, don’t they? Or do I always just fall asleep?

At that point, we decided to part ways in the spa for a couple hours. Anish said he wanted to spend time in the sauna and peppermint steam room, and sent me off on the nail appointment he had scheduled for me. (SNEAKY, huh? I had no idea…) I hadn’t done my nails for the trip, so I thought it was a great idea to have good-looking nails for the rest of our week in Hawaii. We gave each other a quick kiss and parted ways, deciding we’d meet back in the room by 3:30pm to get ready for dinner.

I spent the next few hours getting my nails done and then relaxing in the women’s lounge in the steam room before reluctantly heading back to the room feeling refreshed and thoroughly pampered. Anish was back in the room when I got back and I was STARVING. He suggested I pop into the shower to get ready for dinner and in the meantime he would run out and get us a snack. Sounded good to me!

Anish came back with snacks after a while, and as we chowed down, I started asking about the evening. “Where are we going? What should I wear?” He said it was a surprise and I should wear something nice, but comfortable. I kept thinking to myself, “Will he propose?” …thinking that I should pick something special if so, but “No,” I thought to myself. “That’s not happening today! Just pick a nice dress, Taylor.” I did ask him several times about my outfit, and he said not to worry too much, but I should still look nice. Sure, that’s helpful.

I “knew” he wasn’t going to propose that night, since he’d reserved a weekend, blocked it off on our calendars (including his work one) and told me to take time off work in December for an extra special occasion (this was said with a lot of winks). My Type A self who loves planning ahead was thinking, “Okay! A December engagement. Perfect!” Knowing that, Hawaii was exclusively my birthday trip and this dinner was an anniversary thing. Nothing more. 😉

After telling me not to bring anything but my phone and myself, we headed down to get the car around 4pm, and when we got to the valet, it was already waiting in front with the keys in the ignition (it usually took five to ten minutes). I looked at him, puzzled – a clear question on my face. Anish just smiled and remarked, “Don’t ask, just get in.” So suave, that man. We got in and headed off down the road.

Anish was driving and as we headed south along the ocean, he asked, “We’re heading about an hour away to our dinner destination. Any idea where we’re going?” After thinking a minute, I said happily, “Wailea!” “Yep,” he said with a smile. Wailea’s another gorgeous town known for its beaches, similar to Ka’anapali. I’d heard a lot about it and wanted to visit, so I was excited. I could already imagine the fancy hotel we might be having dinner at.

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In the car on our way to dinner.

We drove and drove, chatting and enjoying the Hawaiian afternoon from the convertible. At one point, I randomly turned to Anish and joked, “You aren’t proposing today… are you?” He laughed and then turned serious.

“Wait, actually Tay, I just realized we aren’t going to see your Dad in person? You know… before our December trip? Do you think I should do it over FaceTime?”

I side-eyed him, thinking “Wait you haven’t asked my Dad yet??? What the heck!”

What I said out loud was, “Of course you need to do it in person! I thought that was what we both wanted.” I was definitely convinced that there was no proposal happening that day after that point. Plus I was a little miffed that he hadn’t asked Dad. It was definitely just dinner. I was also thinking, “After five years, you’d think this guy would’ve done it already…”

After an hour, we were in Wailea and passing by all the gorgeous resorts one-by-one until we were in a regular neighborhood – no restaurants or fancy hotels in sight. I was wondering what the heck we were doing, especially when Anish eventually pulled off on the side of the road by some woods. I could barely see the beach through the thick trees to the right. He turned off the car and turned to me with a grin. “Here we are!”

I was a little wary at this point, especially after we walked away from the car, leaving it on the side of the road. I kept asking questions and Anish kept telling me to relax, take in the moment and not sweat the details. We locked the car as we walked away, but then Anish had to run back to get the GoPro (or so I thought – more on that later). Anish kept encouraging me to go with the flow, which we all know is very hard for me.

When he came back, he lead us to a narrow path and after trekking a small distance through the trees past “No trespassing signs” we emerged from the brush onto a gorgeous and secluded beach.

Here I was in a long dress and heels expecting a nice dinner but instead I was hiking barefoot through trees, heels in hand. Just. Go. With. It.

Nestled between lava rocks on either end and coconut trees behind, the beach cove was nearly empty and absolutely breathtaking. We took off our shoes and walked down to the water.

It was a gorgeous place, but I still kept wondering about dinner (see: Task Master Taylor). Anish, being the most patient man ever, kept encouraging me to relax and not worry about it. “We’ll get dinner. Don’t worry.” My dry response was, “But where are we going to eat??”

After 10-20 minutes, I had slowly started to unwind from the uncertainty. We had gotten our feet wet in the surf and were taking in the spectacular view as the sun got closer to setting over the majestic Pacific ocean.

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Enjoying the gorgeous beach together.

We had been on one end of the cove up to that point, and Anish pointed to the left side of the beach and suggested we walk down and explore the rest of it. I nodded, and we walked together hand-in-hand down the beach. I remember making a comment about a photographer who was taking headshots of a teenage girl near us. Headshots on a Tuesday? That seems kinda weird to me, but hey, it’s Hawaii.

We’d made it most of the way down the beach when we came across a small ledge in the sand and I saw it.

Laid out on the beach was a white linen blanket covered in rose petals with a picnic basket, bottles of wine in an ice bucket, and two glasses. It was beautiful and I couldn’t believe it, but my honest-to-God thought was, “Wow, what a nice anniversary dinner!” My second was, “How the heck did all of this get here?” Still totally clueless about what was to come.

I sat down on the blanket while Anish pulled out the new mini speakers he bought before we left (Oh!) to put some music on, and then set up the GoPro (Ohhhh!) behind the blanket to take some sunset shots of us in front of the ocean. The sun was just starting to set. He sat down next to me and we leaned in to each other. It was so nice, and I felt content. This was it. We’d driven to a secluded beach for a beautiful picnic dinner. What a guy.

We talked and laughed and then Anish suggested we open the bottle of wine. That’s when things started getting funny.

After searching through his bags, Anish realized that he’d forgotten the wine bottle opener. His search got a little more frantic by the minute and I remember thinking, “Why is he getting so frustrated about this?”

You see, Anish is the most patient guy. I mean it… He NEVER gets frustrated and impatient. But not then. He was antsy and kept muttering to himself, “I thought I had it!” It got really weird when he started using his car keys to push the cork into the wine bottle. Yep, he was desperate. I was laughing and told him it was fine and not to worry.

The sun was getting very low on the horizon at that point, and finally, he seemed to let it go and sat back down next to me and said, “Okay, let’s just watch the sun set.” I leaned into him, the sun on my face, and smiled. We were in Hawaii. We’d been together nearly five years after meeting ten years ago at a Model U.N. leadership conference in high school – two kids from different parts of the world, born seven thousand miles apart, who ended up together years later by some trick of fate. We were lucky, to say the least.

After five minutes (or fifteen, who was counting?) of comfortable silence with gentle Hawaiian music playing over the crashing of the waves, Anish abruptly stood up. Looking down, he stood tothe left side of where I was sitting, having left me to fall over on the blanket and wondering what the heck was going on. He’d been acting so strange about the wine that I definitely felt like something was up at this point. When he stood up, my heart started pounding.

Thud. Thud.

After a quiet minute during which I thought my heart might jump right out of my chest, he said in his most romantic voice…

“Do you want to get some food?”

My immediate thought was, “The picnic basket is only two feet away and he needed to stand to say that?”

I laughed nervously and had a DEFINITE feeling at this point that something was about to happen. I responded slowly, “Do you want me to stand up?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile.

I stood up. The sun was almost on the horizon and the sun in its golden hour was shining on us. He leaned over and grabbed a little blue box out of his Go-Pro bag. He stepped closer to me, took my hand, and bent down on one knee.

He sat there for a second, and I said (ever the romantic), “Wait! Are you proposing right now???”

He smiled and then started talking. His eyes welled up with tears, and he told me that he loved me. After five years together and everything we’ve faced — the hardships and joys. That he wanted to be with me forever and start a family together. He said so many lovely and heartfelt things. His most sincere speech. My heart felt like it was about to burst.

I was grinning with tears in my eyes, holding both of his hands. Speechless.

He paused after his speech, took a deep breath, and then he asked me.

“Taylor Emily Merck, will you marry me?”

I grinned, tears running down my cheeks, and replied, “Of course!!!”

And he swept me into his arms.

//

Read Part 2 >

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Maui: Road to Hana – The Jump & The Dark

I discovered something funny about myself when we were in Hawaii. It was probably something I already knew and just didn’t want to acknowledge, but when it’s staring you in the face while on vacation, it’s something you notice and think about.

Here’s the thing: I am not very good at relaxing, being on vacation, taking it slow, etc. I’m no good at it. I am too Type A. Too “what’s the next thing on our list?”

From the minute we stepped off the plane in Maui, Anish was exclaiming, “Oh MAN, I feel relaxed already. Doesn’t this feel nice? Vacation here we come. This is GREAT.” Meanwhile, I had already fast-walked down the terminal to find the Hertz place to rent the car > get on the road > get to our lunch place > check-in to the hotel. Go-go-go! I was still in agenda-mode.

One day into it, on our Road to Hana day, I was definitely feeling happy about being in Hawaii, that’s for sure. But I wasn’t relaxed. The whole drive I was checking the time / reading the travel guide / getting irritated by other drivers / stressing about parking on the side of the small, windy road, etc. I wasn’t slowing down. And so, it was a battle of wills between Relaxation-Central Anish and Task-Master Taylor.

Luckily, the Road to Hana was just what I needed in a lesson of patience. It was endlessly frustrating at first, but I really had to let.it.go to be able to enjoy it. Once you were past a certain point on the road, you had to keep going. There was no fast lane or instructions or clock to be followed. We arrived in Hana late that afternoon/evening, and by that point, the only way to go was to keep going, ’round the bottom part of the island until it curved northwest in the direction of Wailea, then Lahaina, then Ka’anapali. Estimated time almost 3 hours.

Two things helped me switch off the Type A, No Relax mode:

1// THE DARK — As we drove around the island, past Hana, the sun set quickly until we were driving alone in pitch-black darkness on winding, country roads. We knew Haleakala Crater was to the right of us the whole time, but we couldn’t see a darn thing. It was just us and random herds of cattle that roam the ranches on the southern part of the island.

We were out there, in the dark, with only one option — to keep driving. We had no place to be. No destination but the hotel. We drove slowly and carefully through the intense darkness. I’d never seen a night so black, but it wasn’t scary. We stopped multiple times and put the convertible top down to look at the stars. They gleamed brighter than I’d ever seen them before, and it was wonderful. Something we would have never seen if we had raced along earlier that day.

2// THE JUMP — Earlier on the Road to Hana, we came across a favorite spot of the local’s called “Ching’s Pond.” If you were driving by, you’d pass directly above it on the bridge and never know it’s there below — a pretty swimming hole with one very deep narrow hole for jumping. We stopped there to cool off in the pond and watch the folks that our guidebook said jumped off the high ledges above (and sometimes the bridge) into the deep pool. At this point, we were more than halfway along the road and our moods were finally lightening up, although I was still counting down till Hana.

As we waded into the water, a guy climbed up onto the highest ledge while his family watched from the rocks and jumped straight off it into what appeared to me to be the smallest diving hole known to man. We made conversation with them as the man swam back to his family, exclaiming, “Oh! I lost my wedding ring!” and then laughing it off. Anish was mildly interested in taking the leap and said so, and the guy agreed that he should try it. It was no big deal, he said. You just have to make sure you jump in the darkest blue spot and look out for the shallow ledge underwater just below the place you jump. Oh… okay.

This is where Task-Master, Type A Taylor has a mini heart attack and side-eyes the guy while encouraging Anish not to do the jump.

But it was already too late. Anish was swimming across the pond with his GoPro in hand. The guy with the endless encouragements and missing wedding ring swam alongside him to offer advice and heckling. Lovely.

Anish climbed up to the first ledge and thought he might try to lower jump first to make sure he could hit the target, etc. That’s when the guy proceeded to heckle and tell him that local kids jumped from the highest spot, so why shouldn’t he? Never underestimate the power of peer pressure. Before I knew it, Anish was on the highest ledge looking down into the sapphire blue pool, about to jump.

It was at that moment that the constricting cords wrapped around my soul started to come loose. The Type A ones that try to control everything around me, all at once. I was standing in the pool, while Anish stood on a high ledge about to take a leap of faith.

All of the sudden, I let it go. My childlike sense of adventure and bravery crept back up to me and tugged my heartstrings. I found myself shouting, “You can do it, babe!” I was smiling, and I knew it would be fine. It would be exhilarating actually and worth the jump.

So he did it! TWICE, no less! And we were both grinning and shaking every time.

//

It’s amazing how one day can help you learn so much about yourself. All you need sometimes is a little bit of bravery and the gumption to take a leap of faith. Who knew that the next day — Tuesday, August 19 — I would be facing an even bigger adventure and the biggest leap of faith I might ever take. 🙂

AnishJumps3

 

 

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A Special Day

I am one happy girl today — for two reasons:

  1. It’s Anish’s birthday!
  2. It’s our one year anniversary of living in San Francisco, and we’re celebrating it in New York City. Appropriate, no? 😉

I’m wishing a big, HUGE happy birthday to my biggest supporter, the best dancer, the kindest friend, and smartest guy I know.

Happy birthday, Anish!

We’ve been together 5 whole years of birthdays now, can you believe it? I wouldn’t want to do life with anyone else. Here’s to 50+ more together! Thank you for moving to San Francisco with me and being up for every adventure – big or small!

I love you, A.

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