Brought Together by Dance, and Undeterred by Distance

In July 2019, after six years of long-distance dating, Drs. Maya Kailas and Amit Kohli were finally in the same city. Yet even though they shared an apartment in Manhattan, they still faced similar struggles when it came to finding time to see each other.

“As doctors, we don’t get that much time off at the same time,” said Dr. Kailas, 30, a pediatric resident at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. “Finding quality time to spend together can definitely be challenging.”

But as Dr. Kohli, 31, a resident in the neurology department at Mount Sinai Hospital, noted, “when we do get those windows of time to spend together, we value them more because of that.”

The two met in September 2010 as undergraduates at the University of Chicago. Dr. Kailas, who grew up in Fond du Lac, Wis., was a freshman. Dr. Kohli, who was raised on Long Island, was a sophomore. Both were members of their college dance team, UChicago Bhangra, a type of Indian folk dance from the Punjab region.

“I was a one-trick pony when it came to Indian dancing, because that’s really the only dance I know,” Dr. Kohli said. “She seems to know every dance — I couldn’t keep up with her.”

About a year after becoming teammates, the two got to know each other better while on the way home from a dance competition. “Everyone else in the car fell asleep except for the two of us,” Dr. Kailas said. “We chatted the whole way,” she added, and bonded over a shared love of Disney films.

In May 2011, they had a first date at Geja’s Cafe, a fondue restaurant in Chicago, which included a live flamenco performance. Before the night ended, they also strolled through the city’s Lincoln Park. Not long after, “we became inseparable,” Dr. Kailas said.

Following his graduation in 2013, their time together, in person at least, came to an end. Dr. Kohli went off to complete a medical degree at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, N.Y. After she graduated, Dr. Kailas moved to Boston, where she later earned a medical degree from Boston University.

Though dating long-distance had its challenges, Dr. Kailas said, neither she nor Dr. Kohli ever considered breaking up. While she was finishing college, he would regularly fly from New York to visit her in Chicago. When she moved to Boston, those flights became road trips. The decision to get married, both said, was one they arrived at together over the years they lived apart.

They became engaged in December 2019, while on a surprise trip to Chicago planned by Dr. Kohli as a gift to Dr. Kailas.

“It was a Friday evening, and we were just laying around in our apartment,” she said. “I asked him what we should do that weekend, and he just said, ‘Pack your bags, we’re going on a trip! We have a flight that leaves in four hours.’”

“The entire weekend was a beautiful trip down memory lane, visiting our favorite spots,” Dr. Kailas added. “We took a walk through Lincoln Park, just like we did on our first date.”

They were wed May 28 in a Hindu ceremony at the East End Plaza at Navy Pier in Chicago. Sri Begur Nagendra Rao, a priest at the Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) Temple in Aurora, Ill., officiated at the ceremony before 550 vaccinated guests.

Earlier that day, Paramjeet Kaur Singh, a trustee of the Illinois Sikh Community Center in Wheaton, Ill., led the couple in a Sikh ceremony before the same guests at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

The wedding took place a full year after it was originally scheduled because of the pandemic. After postponing the event, Dr. Kailas and Dr. Kohli joined the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus. Dr. Kailas was dispatched to aid patients of all ages. “That was kind of a crazy experience,” she said.

Looking back, Dr. Kohli, who cared for stroke patients during that time, remarked that it took a special commitment to one another to keep their relationship thriving in the face of such adversity.

“There was a lot of investment on both of our parts,” he said. “Both of us really went out of our way to make sure the other person felt heard, valued and respected.”