By Shireen Jamooji
In 2019, Aathira downloaded Bumble with a crystal clear goal in mind: She was looking for a match that her family would like. They’d started dropping hints about finding her a groom and settling down, but she wasn’t keen on an arranged marriage. Instead, the nutritionist and fitness influencer decided to take matters into her own hands and got on Bumble specifically when she was in her hometown of Kochi in South India. Aathira was actually based in Bangalore, but, she says, “I was hoping to find a prospective match from a community my family would be comfortable with.” That plan was quickly derailed when she came across Aditya’s profile.
Aditya, a product manager for an IT firm, was temporarily located in Kochi for work when they matched. He was everything Aathira wasn’t looking for: He hailed from Uttar Pradesh, a state in North India—which was worlds apart from her upbringing in the South—and he was very clear in his bio that he didn’t want a serious relationship. Aathira couldn’t help but swipe right anyway. “I don’t know what it was that convinced me,” she says. What Aathira did know was that she liked Aditya’s “super cute” profile photo and his bio, which said, “Sometimes I feel quite intelligent. Other times I have to sing the ABCs in my head to remember which letter comes next.”
Aditya was on Bumble looking to connect with interesting people in Kochi, and remembers liking a profile photo that Aathira included with her two young nieces. Shortly after they matched, Aathira had to head back home to Bangalore, but they continued the conversation from a distance. “We texted a lot, and spoke on the phone talking about our days,” says Aditya. As they kept getting to know each other, Aathira opened up about how she was looking for something serious, and Aditya responded by stressing that he wasn’t. They came to a mutual understanding that although they wanted different things in life, their connection was so comfortable and natural that they wanted to maintain a relationship, even if it didn’t end up being a romantic one.
It was about a month after they first connected that they were able to plan their first in-person meeting. In July, Aditya flew to Bangalore, and sparks were flying from their first date. They both felt they had an instant connection—and by the end of the evening, they were finishing each other’s sentences. “It was meant to be just dinner,” says Aathira, “but we ended up spending the entire weekend together.”
Being so emotionally and physically comfortable around someone new was a huge step for Aathira, who had often dealt with body image issues in relationships and was very cautious about trusting new people. Aditya immediately made her feel comfortable. She too helped him come out of his shell, sharing her enthusiasm and zest for life. That weekend, even though Aditya hates dancing, Aathira got him to spend a night on the dance floor. Their meeting had struck a chord for both of them. Despite the geographical challenges, they decided to continue talking.
Over the next few weeks Aathira and Aditya flew up and down India for dates that were few and far between, their time together feeling all the more special because of it. “Every meeting felt like a honeymoon,” says Aathira. But neither of them had been in a long-distance relationship, and Aditya especially was having a hard time coming to terms with it. “I wasn’t ready for long-distance at first,” he says. “I didn’t know where it could possibly go.” So even as they were visiting each other regularly, they held off on labeling the relationship.
A few months later they finally made it official. Since they were jumping into a full-time long-distance relationship, they made sure to talk every day and even had little rituals to strengthen their bond. “We played word games together, over video call regardless of where we are,” says Aathira. “Undoubtedly the best five or 10 minutes of the day!”
But despite the leaps of faith they were taking together, they still weren’t on the same page when it came to the future. “There was one conversation with our friends where he just casually said, ‘I never want to get married’, and I sort of lost my head,” says Aathira. “I told him that if that was the case we should just break up.” They started talking and tried to come to a compromise. “But in the end, I wanted to change my mind,” says Aditya. “I just needed the time to think it through.”
In December Aditya arranged a meeting with Aathira’s father to state his intentions. Three months later, they had their roka, a traditional ceremony to officially announce the engagement and signify the beginning of a couple’s life together. But Aditya wanted to plan something more personal and special just for them. So when they were together for a friend’s wedding in Mumbai a few weeks later, he whisked Aathira off to a fancy dinner while their friends decorated their hotel room with balloons and candles. When they returned to the hotel room, Aathira was overwhelmed but elated and tearfully accepted his proposal.
Though they’ve never lived in the same city, their bond is stronger than ever; they feel like they’ve turned their distance into a strength. “The main thing is patience and trust.” says Aathira. “I think having complete trust and belief in the person, while also giving them space, is important.” Aditya thinks more couples should try long-distance, even temporarily. “It’s a great litmus test,” he says. “Living apart helps you see how much you actually trust your person. If you don’t have that trust, there’s no point in the relationship in the first place.”
Aathira and Aditya have plans to live together in Kochi and are getting married at the end of 2023. They know that whatever the future holds, they’ll be able to handle it because they have one another. “We’re still figuring out our long-term future, and how and where we want to live,” says Aathira. “Presently the only thing that’s certain in our futures is each other.”