By Shireen Jamooji
When Aakriti, a brand manager from Kolkata, India, decided to try online dating, she was looking for someone who could commit to a relationship. She decided to try Bumble, as she thought it would be the best place to find people on her wavelength. “I liked that it asked specific questions and I could filter out the people who were only looking to find something casual,” she says. Still, as an introvert, Aakriti wasn’t keen on meeting new people, preferring to spend her time with family and friends.
Viraj, an extrovert, was using Bumble in a different way. As the owner of a shipping company, his work required a lot of travel away from his home city of Jamnagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat, and he made an effort to meet new people everywhere he went. “When I traveled to places where I don’t know anyone, I liked to use Bumble to connect with people,” he says. He was on one such work trip to Kolkata in April 2020 when he got stuck there. It was during India’s COVID-19 lockdown, and due to the restrictions, he couldn’t return home. Staying with a colleague until travel bans lifted, he turned to Bumble to find some good conversations to pass the time. That’s when he first came across Aakriti.
Viraj was immediately drawn to her profile “The first picture she had put up had intensity in her eyes,” he says. The first thing Aakriti noticed about Viraj’s profile was that he valued communication in his life and in a potential match. As a Gemini who’s been a communications major at university, this was enough to prompt Aakriti to swipe right on Viraj and make the first move. “Of course, the fact that he’s quite cute helped!”
When Viraj swiped right, Aakriti was caught up in a COVID baking experiment, making a cake for the first time although she didn’t have all the supplies she needed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going well. She filled Viraj in on her conundrum: the cake she was attempting to make in a casserole dish just wasn’t baking all the way through. Luckily, he was ready with the perfect hack to help her. “He came to the rescue like a knight with a shining spatula and gave me some baking tips,” she recalls. His tip (which was to cover the dish with foil) saved her cake and led to back-and-forth messaging, the conversation expanding to include their interests, families, and ambitions. Their chats were soon going on for hours each day. “Everybody was staying at home with not much to do,” says Aakriti. “It was a great opportunity to talk about real things and understand what makes each other tick.”
One such vulnerable moment came when Aakriti sent him a picture of herself, unedited and unfiltered. “I told him I’m chubby and that it may not come across like that in my Bumble profile,” she says. “I also told him that I’m not looking for anything casual and that if he is, he shouldn’t waste his time on me.” It was a massive step for her since she’d had bad experiences in the past with men who had only been focused on a physical relationship or had a ‘particular type’ of woman in mind as a partner. “To my surprise,” says Aakriti, “he sent me a picture of himself in response, saying that he is somewhat chubby too and not looking for anything casual. His candidness and openness were what I found most attractive.”
After five days of effortless conversation, they realized they didn’t want to wait to meet. Since they were both running errands that day, they decided to meet on the road midway between their two houses. Aakriti couldn’t drive, so her brother was behind the wheel, while Viraj, new to the city, came with his friend who knew the area. Viraj agreed to the meeting, but he already knew what outcome he wanted. “I already knew I wanted to ask her out,” he says. “When you know, you know.” Aakriti was a little more cautious about trusting him, but thought this meeting would confirm whether Viraj’s intentions were genuine or not.
Their chaperoned first date happened on a side road that they knew wasn’t very busy. “I was sitting in the car with my brother on one side, Viraj on the other, and his friend in the front seat,” says Aakriti. “It was quite awkward but really funny as well.” They made friendly conversation for a while, but eventually, Viraj took her aside and confessed his feelings saying, “I love you. Will you be my girlfriend?” Aakriti was stunned. She also wasn’t sure if this big proclamation was how he convinced girls to be with him, so she told him that she’d think about it. But after continuing to listen to what he had to say, she couldn’t help but believe him, and just before they parted ways, she accepted his offer saying, “A thousand times yes!”
They began dating and navigating the challenges of a relationship during the pandemic. Aakriti would visit Viraj’s place in the mornings as they got to know each other better. “Viraj is the extrovert to my introvert,” says Aakriti. He helped her come out of her shell, introducing her to the many friends and family in his life—a move that made her feel confident that their relationship was serious. Viraj also found her quickly becoming an integral part of his life. “Aakriti understands me in every way,” he says.
In January 2021, they took the next step in their relationship. Viraj had been secretly planning a proposal himself the next month, but in true Bumble style, Aakriti beat him to the punch and decided to propose to him. They had flown to the coastal western Indian state of Goa for New Year’s Eve, and three days later, with the help of his friends, she convinced him that they should take a sunset walk down the beach. She’d arranged a dinner table surrounded by fairy lights. Viraj was still entirely in the dark at this point. “I saw this table and was like, ‘Let’s take it before anyone else does!” he says. “When we reached the table, I realized she was the one proposing to me!” Aakriti led him to the table and went down on one knee. “I told him I love him and want to spend the rest of my life with him,” she says. All he had to say was “A thousand times yes!’”
On their return, they started planning their beach wedding, tentatively setting the date the following year. Initially they set their sights on Goa, then switched to Thailand when COVID cases began rising again. Travel restrictions eventually became too difficult, so they settled on Kolkata in January 2022, inviting all their friends and family to join them in a festive three-day event.
Today, Aakriti lives with Viraj in Jamnagar, a slightly smaller city than she’s used to, but one where she feels very much at home. They see their relationship as a celebration of love, life, and laughter—one where her caring personality is balanced by his outgoing one. One day they hope to retire to a peaceful coffee plantation, but for now are focused on building their life together. “I don’t know what life will look like tomorrow,” says Viraj, “but whatever I want to do, whatever comes, it will be with her.”