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Romantic proposals: Over a game of rummy, he won her heart

Last updated on: February 11, 2014 13:56 IST

Romantic proposals: Over a game of rummy, he won her heart

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Chaya Babu

How do you share a moment that's private and personal with the people closest to you? Abhay Singh worked a way out when he proposed to Bhavana Pendurthi some years ago. This is their story. 

His seriously cool proposal had her going 'Yes' and us going 'Awww.'

The couples behind some of the most romantic desi proposals tell Chaya Babu all about that special moment.

***

Abhay Singh and Bhavana Pendurthi were planning their first trip together to India since they had started dating.

They had reconnected in Philadelphia in 2008 after having gone to college together, graduating a year apart a few years prior.

After meeting up a few times casually, it was clear that their friendship was much more than that and soon they were a couple.

But despite the length of time of the relationship, visiting family members in India was something that they felt a little uneasy about.

"We had this big trip planned and my family in India is somewhat conservative; like I didn't know if they would understand that this is my boyfriend and we are committed to each other," Bhavana says.

"I think it's difficult for families in India to understand that. It's changing a lot, but I didn't think they'd receive him as just one of my friends."

Abhay says he had already decided that he was going to propose at some point, and the more he thought about it, the more he agreed that it would be nice to be engaged on the trip because of the culture there.

He knew he'd have to get his act together since their holiday travel plans were around the corner, but he decided over Thanksgiving weekend 2011 to make it happen before they left.

He told her dad about it while they were at her parents' place, and then he started his proposal hustle.

Bhavana says that in spite of their shared feelings about going to India and the perceptions of their relationship, she still had zero idea that she was about to get engaged.

Abhay knew that his girlfriend would love to share the moment with the people closest to her, but that she'd want the proposal itself to be private and personal, so he came up with a way to combine the two.

At the time, Bhavana was living in Miami and Abhay in New Jersey, both of them in medical school.

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Image: Abhay Singh and Bhavana Pendurthi
Photographs: Courtesy Abhay Singh and Bhavana Pendurthi

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They were scheduled to fly out of Miami to go to India, so he planned to do it there, invited her family and a handful of close friends to join them for the occasion, got a ring designed in the few short weeks he had, and picked it up the day before he flew to Florida -- that's the day it was done.

"I remember one of my friends was on call the day before and on call the next day, but he flew down in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans and his wallet, stayed for six hours in Miami, and flew back," Abhay says. "It was just great."

Bhavana had to work the day Abhay got in, so he arranged for a friend of his, Nasheer, who grew up in the area and was in town for the weekend to pick him from the airport and take him to the location he picked out for the proposal, a secluded spot on one of the quieter beaches.

He wanted to check out the area beforehand to make sure everything would work out, walk the path that they would walk the next day, and scout out the spots where his friends would hide out to take photos.

"I used a lot of Google maps and satellite imaging to pick out the place I wanted to do it," Abhay says.

"The beach was the perfect idea, but I didn't want it to be crowded. I wanted it to be easy for the others to get to, but I wanted it to be me and Bhavana by ourselves."

He even created a map that showed everyone exactly where to wait for them and where they should park so that Bhavana wouldn't notice anything or anyone familiar on the way.

The next day, a Saturday, Abhay told her that Nasheer wanted them to all have lunch together with his parents, and she agreed. He said they would be meeting at a restaurant near the proposal spot. On the way, Abhay received a text from Nash -- a pre-planned one of course -- saying that he and his family were running late.

"Do you want to just wait in the park over there?" Abhay asked her.

"Sure, we can play some rummy or something," Bhavana said, her usual, easygoing self.

This was perfect. It was part of the plan.

Rummy is a favourite game between the two of them, and Abhay had given Bhavana a deck of cards one Valentine's Day with photos of two of them on the backs of the cards.

"It's like our card pack, something that we wouldn't use when playing with friends or something," he said. "It's kind of corny."

For the proposal, Abhay got a nearly identical set of cards with the same photos on the backs, but on the fronts, 13 cards -- the hearts suit -- had the words will you make me the happiest man in the world by marrying me? He arranged the cards so they would be dealt to her in that order.

"We walked out to this spot on the beach," Bhavana recalls. "There's this beautiful location where you walk out and there's a lighthouse and it's just sort of you and then the Atlantic Ocean.

It's absolutely gorgeous.

I was completely, completely unaware of all of it.

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Image: The couple walked over to a secluded spot on the beach where Abhay finally popped the question.


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I think it was after three hands of rummy that I noticed that the cards had some words on them.

All I caught was 'Will. You. Marry…. And then I see Abhay on the ground on one knee."

Her confusion cleared up, and at that point he was pulling the ring out his pocket. She said 'yes' of course and was ecstatic -- and then she immediately started talking about how much she wanted to share it with her family.

Abhay suggested they enjoy the moment alone and walk down the beach a little. It was not long before she noticed two of Abhay's friends taking photos.

"Then, it was so, so sweet. My mom ran out and gave me this huge hug. And then my sisters were there and my friends.

"It was so amazing. I had absolutely no clue and I think that's one of my best memories of the whole thing."

They continued to celebrate that night with everyone and flew to India the next day.

On a 12-hour layover in London, Abhay took Bhavana to a restaurant where even more of her friends who were living there showed up to share their joyful moment.

"The surprises kept coming. The whole thing was so amazingly orchestrated. I was like 'wow, you are a master of deception. And I love it,'" she says.

He says, "I remember being on the plane to India, and it was the first time we were alone and it was just nice.

"I knew that she was really happy. And that's really all you want; I just wanted her to be happy. And those plane rides are really long and boring, but I remember being really content."

Abhay and Bhavana got married in April 2013 and are living in Durham, North Carolina, both in their residencies at Duke.

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Image: The celebrations continued with her family and some of their close friends who Abhay had invited.


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