Rachana’s Los Angeles Vacation Became a Lifetime Connection When She Met Anuj
By Shireen Jamooji
Rachana, a psychologist from Mumbai, wasn’t looking for love while visiting family in Los Angeles in early 2021. Her cousin, however, was determined to find her the man of her dreams and suggested some traditional Indian matrimonial websites which were geared towards arranged marriages. Rachana found the idea of dating with such high expectations of commitment overwhelming, so she turned to Bumble. She felt more comfortable dating at her own pace and having a more casual approach to meeting new people.
Meanwhile, Anuj was also going through a similar situation. His cousin had also been pushing him to give online dating a chance, since it was something he’d never tried. While hesitant at first since he’d met all of his previous relationships offline, he finally relented and downloaded Bumble.
Anuj had moved from Rajasthan, India to New Jersey to work as a software engineer in 2020, and worked from home most of the time. When a massive snowstorm hit in February 2021, he decided to work from L.A., where he could enjoy the warmer weather. While there, he restricted the search radius on Bumble to one mile in the hopes of meeting someone close by. “I wasn’t going to drive in the crazy L.A. traffic,” he laughs. His plan backfired when he matched with Rachana, who was actually staying an hour and a half away but was visiting a friend in a building next door.
Despite this hitch, the two immediately hit it off. “I liked her pictures,” says Anuj. “She looked like an interesting person and seemed very calm and composed, unlike me!” Rachana was intrigued by the simplicity of Anuj’s profile and their interactions. “His profile didn’t have a lot of content on it,” she says. “It used to take him three or four hours to reply most of the time, same as me, but it never caused a problem. I liked that there weren’t any serious expectations, we were just two people getting to know each other.”
For their first date, they planned to meet at Rachana’s aunt’s house and then go out for a meal. But Anuj’s predictions about L.A. traffic returned to haunt him as he found himself gridlocked and three hours late. “I didn’t mind so much since I was waiting at home, but it wasn’t the best first impression,” laughs Rachana. Having missed their reservations, Anuj hastily searched for the best restaurants nearby, and they found themselves at a beautiful spot near the boardwalk. The conversation was easy, and for the next four hours, they learned more about each other. They swapped stories and jokes about life in India, and compared notes about work and their worldviews. When the date ended, they both felt they’d started something special. By their second date, both of them had deleted Bumble.
Over the coming weeks, they planned more outings together, like walks along the beach and mountaintop picnics. Each time they talked for hours at a stretch with ease. “My aunt would get so worried,” says Rachana. “I was new in town and her responsibility, and there I was disappearing for five or six hours at a time.” Since Rachana was set to return to India later that month, the couple wanted to spend as much time together as possible, preferably away from the fretting of Rachana’s aunt. The perfect opportunity came when they were invited on a trip to San Francisco with Anuj’s sister and her fiance.
“We did all the touristy things there, but my favorite day was when we went to a local park and sat by the lake,” says Anuj. “I realized I was so comfortable with her, I could talk my heart out.” Rachana, too, has fond memories of that day: “I didn’t have any expectations for where this was going,” she says. “But I knew I was enjoying what we had and wanted more, so I tried to be in the moment.” This trip was a turning point in their relationship. Rachana noticed how caring and considerate he was, cooking her breakfast and ensuring she always had access to vegetarian food. At the same time, Anuj realized he’d found someone he could be completely honest and open with about his life. At the end of this trip, Anuj had to return to New Jersey for work, but not before convincing Rachana that she should come with him.
They’d been together just over four months by this time, but they believed their relationship had an expiry date. The couple accepted that even though they’d connected so deeply on their trip, they may soon be separated. Just in case, Anuj decided to float an idea: “I asked if she wanted to come with me to New Jersey,” he says. “I told her the weather that time of year was really nice,” although that was a white lie. “It was not!” Luckily, Rachana wanted to spend more time together too, and managed to push her flight back and find accommodations by staying with family friends in Philadelphia for an extra month. They were one and a half hours apart again, but they stayed in touch with video calls, and Rachana spent weekends in New Jersey. It was during this stay in the summer of 2021 that they decided they didn’t want their relationship to end. “We started talking about how we’d manage when I went back,” says Rachana. “He wasn’t very comfortable with long distance, and I wasn’t sure it would work either. That’s when we first started talking about marriage.”
Anuj’s parents back in India weren’t aware of their whirlwind romance and had started planning an arranged marriage for him. After he learned about this, the couple realized that they needed to take action quickly and share the news with their families. “Before Rachana’s return to Mumbai, we had a video call with my parents,” says Anuj. “I just pulled her into the frame saying, ‘she’s the one!’”
After this call, Rachana returned to India and told her family in person. They were surprised that she’d come back from holiday with a fiance but took it in their stride, speaking with Anuj over video calls and welcoming him to the family.
They were officially engaged in the fall, although the day itself came as a surprise to Rachana. Anuj was still in the U.S. and she’d gone to meet his family alone for the first time. She thought it was just going to be a casual day getting to know each other, but it turns out Anuj’s family had other plans! “I wasn’t expecting an engagement with an exchange of religious rituals,” she says. “But there was a priest there who blessed the union, and I realized, ‘Ok, this is formalized now.’” By November 2021, Anuj returned to India, and they tied the knot in his hometown of Kota, Rajasthan, in December in a large ceremony with all their families and friends.
In January, they moved back to New Jersey and began building a life together. Rachana is preparing to take on her second master’s degree, and they’re looking to buy a home. They both believe that Bumble and the universe brought them together because they were meant to be. “We are equal partners,” says Anuj. “We communicate our feelings openly and always find ways to compromise.”
“Respect and love were just words before I met him,” adds Rachana. “In this relationship I get to experience all of that in a true sense.”