Friends, thank you for sharing in our joy and being a part of the fun of telling the story! If you haven’t already, make sure to check out parts 1 to 4. We hope you’ve enjoyed it. We sure did – living it and writing about it! And now, we present the photos, which say so much even without the words. Wishing you the happiest of Thanksgivings. – Taylor & Anish
The first order of business on Tuesday was a leisurely morning by the pool. And while Tay read a book while tanning (I come pre-baked, so I don’t really get the point), I took turns swimming in the pool and going off “exploring” so I could make calls to confirm that everything I needed was ready and waiting for me to pick it up.
The morning ticked away slowly and I had calculated that by the afternoon I would need to do a few things. I would need a few hours apart from Tay. Making sure she was completely relaxed for the evening with her nails done (like I knew she would want) would be a few additional nice things to have. It sounded like the perfect excuse to plan an afternoon at the spa.
When we got out of our couple’s massage we decided to part ways. I claimed to want to spend time in the sauna/steam room (too hot for me!), so we parted ways leaving Tay with an hour before the nail appointment I had booked her.
The second she was out of sight I kicked into hyper drive. I scrambled to put on my clothes, and then sprinted across the resort to our room to grab my wallet and rush down to the valet.
I had just under two hours to be back in the room.
It was a mad dash to hit the six different places I needed to. Her favourite wine, beach mats, rose petals, cutlery, an ice bucket, a bottle opener and a bunch of other things were ready and waiting at each stop. 90 minutes later, I was in car heading back to the hotel, feeling pretty happy about how seamlessly everything had gone. I just needed to make one more phone call.
“Hey, yea, everything is still on schedule. We’ll get there at 5pm. Yes, I’ll park on the far end. Just make sure you wait till we’ve walked far enough away from the car before you come out of hiding. See you soon.”
Back at the hotel, I jumped out of the car, and the valet and I began chatting. I explained what was going on and we strategized next steps together. Before I knew it, he had offered to leave the car parked right in front of the main door (instead of taking it to the lot) till we left and would even open the trunk for the man delivering the picnic basket. Seriously, how awesome was this guy?
I stepped into the room with ten minutes to spare, mentally checking through my list. All the pieces were starting to fall into place.
Tay wasn’t back yet so I decided to pull out the box from the suitcase and grabbed the ring out of the safe. I united the two for the first time in days, knelt down over the bed and started trying tp tie the ribbon around the box…
Shit! She’s back. Early!
Without thinking I grabbed everything on the bed with one sweep of my hand and threw it under the bed, stood up and turned around just as her beaming face peaked through the door.
“Hi love, how was the spa?”
After she jumped into the shower, I crawled under the bed, grabbed everything and started tying the bow again.
Really! Are you kidding me? Am I really this challenged at tying a simple ribbon? I was starting to get a little frustrated. Maybe I could find someone else to do it? But how do I get away from Tay again?
“Anish, I’m really hungry. Do you think we could call room service for a little snack before we leave?” She shouted out from the shower.
Well well, isn’t that just perfect. Thank you universe (and Tay’s appetite!
“Why don’t I just go downstairs and grab us something, love?”
I ran back downstairs walking around the hotel trying to figure out where I could get some help, when I saw a jewelry store, right in the hotel! (Do people really buy jewelry, in a hotel, while on vacation?) Universe, thou art pre-tty cool.
There were four ladies in the store – all staff – huddled around each other chatting away. I walked in and up to the group sheepishly. They paused when they noticed me.
“How may I help you sir?”
“This is a strange question but would any of you be able to help me tie a bow?” I said, as I pulled out the little blue box and white ribbon from my camera bag.
“Of course, sir.”
Instantly they had a whole bunch of tools on the counter. Wow. Tying bows was a full-on art form. Who knew?
Amidst the small talk one of them asked what the special occasion was, so I mentioned that I was on my way to propose to my girlfriend.
“WHAT!?” they exclaimed and started clapping and screaming. Not figuratively. Literally.
And not quietly either. This was a full on celebration – people walking by and through the main hotel lobby even stopped and peered in. One of the ladies even put on celebratory music as they all peppered me with sweet questions and encouragement as they continued to clap and exclaim.
I stood there in a semi-state of shock with a big grin on my face. I had absolutely no clue what on Earth was going on! This was easily one of the most ridiculous scenarios I had been in.
They handed me the beautifully tied box and walked me to the entrance wishing me luck. As I walked through the expansive courtyard towards the elevator bank, I looked back over my shoulder to see the four sweet, motherly ladies all standing next to each other at the entrance waving to me.
What a strange and amazing place, this Aloha state!
“Don’t ask, just get in,” I smiled and said in response to the the puzzled expression on Tay’s face when she saw the car parked in the hotel driveway, doors open, waiting for us. The valet winked at me and gave me a thumbs up.
So far, so good. We were right on schedule. I typed out a quick text and hit send: Leaving now. GPS says 60 minutes.
We settled in for an hour-long beachside drive to our destination hand-in-hand with the top down and soothing Hawaiian music playing. We chatted incessantly the entire way until she suddenly paused and looked over at me with a big grin.
“You aren’t proposing today… are you?”
I probably lost a good year of my life with all of the heart-stopping close calls over the past few days. But none quite like this one! My heart sank. I thought I had thrown her completely off the scent — why is she asking me this? Hopefully my sunglasses hid the momentary panic.
“Wait, actually Tay, I just realized we aren’t going to see your Dad in person soon. You know… before our December trip? Do you think I should do it over FaceTime?” I quickly replied.
We had had many conversations about how important it was to both of us to ask for his blessing in person. Not having done that yet would certainly be a deal breaker and squash any possibility that I was going to propose on this trip. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I had not only asked her dad but even her brother when I was in Georgia months earlier.
It broke my heart to see her face fall in disappointment as the words left my mouth. ‘But it wouldn’t be for very much longer,’ I rationalized it to myself.
It seemed like the middle of nowhere, with woods to the right of us and a beach somewhere behind all of it. I saw slight movement in the trees up ahead of us. Thankfully Tay didn’t notice and after it had stopped, I drove towards it and pulled over.
“Here we are!” I chuckled, knowing all the confused thoughts likely going through her head. ‘But wait, he said nice dinner. What did he mean by nice dinner? There’s nothing around here for miles? Where are we going to get food?’
Facing the ocean, we were parked on the left side where the woods ended at the lava rocks. There was a small path through the woods on the opposite end, so we slowly walked down the road heading towards the path.
About 15 steps away from the car, the keys in my hand, I found the button to open the trunk and gently pressed it. Now if all goes according to plan, it will pop open just a bit and we would be in business.
Both our heads shot around as the car gave out a loud single beep with the tail lights flashing.
Well… that certainly didn’t happen when I had practiced this many times earlier.
I left Tay on the side over the road as I ran over to shut the trunk. I was still going to need to get it open without her realizing. Time for Plan B… but there was no Plan B.
I shut it and ran back to Tay and continued our walk to the path. The car was no longer in sight (or within remote distance) and my mind was racing trying to figure out how to get the trunk – with everything packed neatly inside it – open. By the time we got to the path, I had formulated a plan. Back to my new favourite toy.
“Gah! I left my GoPro remote in the car. Stay here. I’ll run over and grab it – we’re going to need it to get those sunset pictures.”
I saw two silhouettes standing by the car as I got back there — the photographer and her daughter — my secret team of helper elves. “Hey guys! Sorry, I had to improvise. Everything should be in here.”
“Fantastic. We’ll set it up just like the sketch you sent us. In the same spot we agreed on, right?” She asked. “I’m going to stay on the beach for a little while so we can get a few shots of the two of you from a distance – I’ll be pretending to take pictures of Sarah – before we head back into the trees. Don’t worry, we’ll be out of earshot and neither of you will see or know where we are.”
This had to be one of the most breathtaking beaches I have ever been on.
We were close. So close. All of the build up and all of the planning had lead to this moment. And every little hiccup along the way made it just a little more perfect and a lot more ours.
With my pants rolled up and her hand in mine, we walked through the shallow surf towards the other end of the beach. And as we turned the corner, there it was up on the sand, in plain site.
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 time.
Time seemed to speed up as we sat there talking and taking in the spectacular sunset. Tay was finally unwinding and enjoying the evening, no longer plagued with ridiculous uncertainty of ‘where will we eat dinner?’
I grabbed a bottle of wine and reached into the bucket for the wine bottle opener. It wasn’t there. It must be in the picnic basket. Nope. In my pockets? Nope. I searched everywhere and I became uncharacteristically frantic. All the while, Tay looked at me quite puzzled.
See, everything had gone perfectly so far. Sure there had been minor heart stoppers but I expected those. But I knew I packed that wine opener. And I’m sure we can all attest to the magical power of a little wine in a big moment. If wine were RedBull, I was looking for my wings.
I’m not one to panic very often but something about this situation had me flustered in a way I had never been before. My chaotic and urgent movements were clearly making Taylor suspicious. Half way through using the car keys to try and jimmy the cork out, Tay put a calming hand on my leg, instantly flashing me back to what was really important. I took a deep breath and let it go.
We snuggled back together, settling in for the sunset. It feels like we talked about everything, though my mind struggles to remember the specifics. What I did know, was the overwhelming sense of happiness being in that place, with that lady.
As the sun made its final descent towards the horizon I contemplated timing. We were losing daylight and quickly. Tay hadn’t shown the slightest inclination of getting up since she first sat down. Getting her to stand up was going to be quite a challenge. Tay’s the kind of person who, when you ask her to stand up, her first response won’t be “Okay!” It will inevitably be, “Why?” There wasn’t going to be a suave way to do this, so I jumped up and asked her if she wanted to get some food — a direct question would ensure she’d do it — I hoped.
In hindsight, I realize it was a rather peculiar question given that the picnic basket was about two feet away. She sat there with a strange look on her face carefully studying me as I stood there waiting.
“Do you want me to stand up?” she asked tentatively.
I smiled. She knew.
I had done the hard part. The months of planning leading up to that moment.
Tay and I had known we would marry each other for what felt like forever now. And with that came the preparation of knowing what I would say. It came with the comfort of knowing what the answer would be.
There was no uncertainty in my mind. I wasn’t scared of hearing no. This was a sweet formality for which I was well prepared. I had played out the scene in my mind hundreds of times over the last few months.
Up until that point, this had all been an incredibly exciting and happy adventure to create a moment we would treasure for the rest of our lives. A gesture to show the lady who held my heart that I would go to every extent to be with her for the rest of my life.
But in that single moment, as I knelt down in front of her, all of my preparation seemed to dissolve into nothing. The floor of excitement gave way beneath my feet as I moved into a freefall of unbridled emotion.
The world grew hazy through my teary eyes. And the words in my mind, all of the sweet words, so carefully prepared and rehearsed, no longer sounded coherent.
There was just her. And me. Nothing else really mattered anymore.
It’s so easy to let life tick on, doing the things we do, one day at a time in autopilot. That incremental feeling of putting one foot in front of the other.
A to B, B to C, C to D. School, then university, then first job, etc.
And when you add time to that equation, it’s even easier to remember just the most recent of those steps.
There I was, Tay by my side, on a plane 30 thousand feet over the eerily vast Pacific Ocean, en route to Hawaii for the first time to take my next step. Our next step. A big next step.
There wasn’t the slightest bit of uncertainty in my mind. I mean, it made total sense. Rationale sense. We fit perfectly together and had for so many years now. We had met ten years ago and had been together for the last five. When I was with Tay, it was clearly evident that our sum was significantly greater than the parts.
And while everything about this felt like the right next step, as I sat in that seat staring out into the massive expanse of water, her head resting fast asleep on my shoulder, I couldn’t help but think ‘how the heck did I land up here!’
See, it made sense when I thought back to our time together in San Francisco or even further back to Boston. But our stories didn’t start there. And as I toggled the zoom dial in my mind and panned out far enough, I started to realize that this wasn’t my next step. It had all been a giant leap.
A leap with the most incredible precision.
Here we were, two ‘southerners’ from South’s on opposite sides of the world. Born to different cultures, nationalities, ideals and aspirations. One living in one of the largest cities in the world and the other in the woods of a tiny town — with oceans, continents, seven thousand miles, and billions of people in between to keep us apart.
At the risk of being overly dramatic, every little decision we made or were a part of, if they had been made a different way would have drastically altered not just the path that lead us to each other, but whether those paths would even meet at all.
My family not moving from India to the UAE. Not going to high-school at Dubai Scholars – the school that nominated me to attend GYLC. Not receiving funding to attend GYLC. Not meeting Tay in the 400 person group during my first trip to the US. Not getting into Boston University. Not moving to the US. Not calling her when I touched down to rekindle a friendship. Not calling her years later. Not calling her again. Not traveling back and forth to see each other. Not deciding to start dating. Not asking her to move to Boston.
All of those and so many countless others. Any single one of which would have resulted in a very different path. Best case scenario we wouldn’t be together. Worst case scenario we would have never met.
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” – Paulo Coelho
As I sat on the plane thinking back, the fresh perspective made it hard for me to deny that the universe just might have had some part to play in me sitting in that seat getting ready to take my next step.
Not incremental. Monumental.
Hawaii was everything we had ever imagined and then some. Everything moves sways just a little slower. Stepping out of the plane and into the warm tropical air sent us straight into island mode. Well, one of us faster than the other. 😉
Our hotel was breathtaking and the staff upgraded us into a huge suite with a lanai opening out to the ocean. There’s nothing quite like feeling an ocean breeze while lying in bed, *inside* your room.
With my work phone three thousand miles away, Tay and I proceeded to delete all of the apps off of our personal ones, leaving just the dialer for emergencies and Google Maps to get us places. This entire week was about us and nothing else.
Every time we turned, it was like the backdrop of a Planet Earth episode in Ultra HD. I wanted to propose right then. But for months I had been planning to propose on that very specific Tuesday and had timed the trip to coincide with a day that had so much meaning and significance to us. A testament to everything that we had been through together and come out of relatively unscathed. That was the plan and I was sticking to it – stress be damned.
On Tay’s birthday, a few weeks earlier, I had told her we were going to Hawaii and that was her Birthday present. I had claimed that my work schedule wouldn’t clear up for a month so we’d have to wait till a random week in August.
The night before we left, while we were packing she turned to me and very innocently said, “Guess what? Our Anniversary is on Tuesday – what a coincidence! We can celebrate two things at once.”
Yes, my love. Or three…
So like I mentioned earlier, the room was huge. On the furthest end of it was the lanai, an outdoor patio overlooking the ocean. On the other end of the suite was the walk-in closet with a hotel safe, bathroom and changing areas. The bedroom separated the two areas…about ~8 running strides apart, as I would later find out.
Now while I was in full-on island chill mode, the stress of having the ring on me and keeping it unseen was still a mighty one.
My trusty ski socks (I know it must sound like I’m a pro skiier at this point… I’ve been twice. And once was inside a shopping mall!) and my camera bag took turns hiding the precious cargo securely in the safe as went in and out of the room on various adventures.
Safe and secure from would be thieves, yes. But *not* from the constantly arranging and rearranging, Type-A soon to be Mrs. Kattukaran.
Five times, over those two days, I heard the safe unexpectedly beep open. There was nothing in there she needed, other than to perhaps rearrange the already perfectly arranged contents of the safe. And obviously, every *single* one of those times I was sitting out on the lanai.
Time slowed down. Heart attacks occurred. And then I would leap across the room in a full sprint to get to the safe before she found the ring.
After making four separate excuses for urgently needing the camera, I decided to change it up and transfer the ring into my ski-sock and put that in the safe.
The fifth time I heard the safe open was my slowest. As I bounded into the walk-in-closet, Tay was turning towards me reaching out to give me something in her hand.
I looked down and my heart, followed by the rest of my body, froze.
“Babe, why the heck did you bring your ski-socks? And how did they get in the safe?”
“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.
“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!
I looked through the passenger window and saw her walking up to the front door.
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.
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.