On a Saturday in June 2018, Vaibhavi Kamat, then a rising senior at North Carolina State, took a seat at a busy table at Darbar Indian Cuisine, a restaurant in Manhattan. Soon, she was talking to Jaideep Rao, then a rising senior at the University of Mississippi.
Ms. Kamat and Mr. Rao had each traveled alone to New York City to be a part of a Konkani Youth Convention. The event brings together young people whose ancestry dates back to the city of Mangalore, in Southern India, for the sole purpose of getting them to know one another.
It seemed to work immediately for Ms. Kamat, now 25, and Mr. Rao, now 26, who quickly realized they had a lot of things in common, including growing up in the south and sharing a favorite fast-food chain, Cook Out.
“She was beautiful, and had less of a southern accent than I thought she would have,” said Mr. Rao. “She was also very easy to talk to, which is probably because we are a part of the same South Indian subculture.”
Ms. Kamat said, “He seemed very genuine and kind. Our conversation felt very natural, and it didn’t seem like either one of us was trying too hard.”
They exchanged numbers that day, and Mr. Rao began having visions of a long-distance romance with Ms. Kamat.
But then came Sunday.
“We left without seeing each other on Sunday,” said Ms. Kamat.
Mr. Rao was almost certain that Ms. Kamat would call as soon as she got home. But she didn’t, and when another week passed and she still hadn’t called him, his confidence began to fade.
When asked if at that point he thought Ms. Kamat would never call, Mr. Rao laughed nervously and said in a voice just above a whisper, “a little bit.”
“I knew we had good chemistry,” he added.
The following week, though, Ms. Kamat finally called and Mr. Rao breathed a sigh of relief.
“We spent the rest of the summer communicating mostly online, as I was away on a study abroad trip,” she said.
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In September 2018, Ms. Kamat boarded a plane for Mississippi and spent a weekend with Mr. Rao on his university’s campus in Oxford. She was curious to meet the friends he had often talked about, which made Mr. Rao “very, very nervous,” he said.
But once she arrived and heard from his friends about what a great of guy he was, Mr. Rao’s nerves relaxed. And the fact that she even made the trip, he said, was an auspicious sign.
“Once she took that plane ride from North Carolina to come see me, I knew she was committed,” Mr. Rao said.
By 2020, both Mr. Rao and Ms. Kamat had graduated and moved to Texas; he to Dallas, and she to Ridgewood Park. Mr. Rao, who received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, is an associate civil engineer for TRC, a consulting, engineering and construction management firm in Arlington, Texas. Ms. Kamat earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and is a first-grade teacher at W.A. Martin Elementary School in Crandall, Texas.
On Apr. 17, 2021, Mr. Rao proposed at Fount, a café in Dallas. On Sept. 11, 2021, the couple and their families participated in a formal engagement ceremony, which incorporated Hindu rituals and traditions, at Ms. Kamat’s parents’ home in Apex, N.C.
The couple were married three months later, on Dec. 11, 2021, at the DFW Hindu Temple in Irving, Texas. Umanath Bhat, a Hindu priest, led the ceremony before 20 vaccinated guests. The day after their wedding, the bride and groom had brunch with their families at Mughlai Fine Indian Cuisine in Southlake, Texas.
“Our families have become extremely close since we began dating,” the groom said. “It’s as if each of us now belong to two families.”
Afterward, the newlyweds officially moved in together, into the groom’s apartment in Highland Park, Texas.