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Vijay Valecha and Radhika Doshi, former students of the Indian High School during the wedding proposal at the IHS premises. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The Indian High School’s playground turned into a mini Miracle Garden on Saturday, setting the stage for an Indian expat in Dubai to propose to his school lover.

Teenage love made a full circle for Dubai-born Mumbaikars Vijay Valecha and his high school sweetheart Radhika Doshi when the proposal took place where they met for the first time — in their alma mater. Offering an ode to their love story, the school management allowed the couple to host the ceremony on the school’s playground by following COVID-19 protocols.

The extraordinary wedding venue was decorated with flower arches and balloons. The words “Marry Me” were set up in flowers against the backdrop of a huge floral love arch that resembled the ones in Dubai Miracle Garden, the world’s largest natural flower garden. Before walking his lady love down the red carpet, Vijay brought Radhika blindfolded into the surprise venue, the fifth one he chose to propose her in a unique way.

Massive proposal scheme

“The proposal scheme included five proposals connecting with R, A, D, H and I to spell out her name Radhi, as she had always wanted me to propose in a grand way,” Vijay told Gulf News. “R — was R-Adda [ a resto-bar] because we met after a long time over there just before she was moving to Hong Kong. A — was Al Seef corniche, because most of our dates when we were kids used to happen there and it still happens to be one of our favourite hangout spots,” he said.

“D — was Downtown Dubai, the place where we got back together on her birthday in 2010 on a treasure hunt organised for her and I was supposed to be her clue at Burj Khalifa, her favourite building in the world. H — was a helicopter ride, because it was classy and I could not find anything else with H,” Vijay said, chuckling.

“I-definitely had to be the Indian High School, since that is the place we met and our love blossomed, also of course that is the place that has made us what we are today thanks to great schooling,” he said.

For each venue, Vijay sent her cue cards, which again started with the same letters and gave clues about the special attachment they had to those places. Over the past few days, he had fulfilled the rest of the proposals. But Radhika had not got a complete picture about his secret plan till it was explained to her on Saturday. “She didn’t realise it. She just knew she got five rings. I had to explain the concept to her,” said Vijay.

A spellbound Radhika, who came in a wedding dress taking cue from Vijay’s note, said she was shocked and did not expect the big surprise at the school where their families and a few friends were also present. “As he undid my blindfold, I froze at the scene unravelling in front of me in the pre-dusk. Speechless, nostalgic, extreme happiness all at the same time. I stood in the middle of my school compound where it all started 20 years ago. Time stood still as I gazed in his eyes, knelt down holding the ring. The moment where I realised it was him and only him and it was all worth it.”

Radhika and Vijay in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Now that she has said a firm yes, the couple is all set to register their marriage at the Indian Consulate in Dubai on Thursday.

What COVID did to their plans

Vijay said his plans to have a big fat Indian wedding in Goa and in a luxury resort in the UAE had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albeit the pandemic playing a spoilsport in the wedding bash, it did act as a catalyst in them deciding to end their long wait to tie the knot as they were separated for several months due to the flight suspensions. Radhika was stuck in India after her father fell sick.

Though the couple had experienced several years of long-distance relationship when Vijay worked in Mumbai and when Radhika worked in Hong Kong, they used to fly to each other frequently. It was during the pandemic that they stayed apart without meeting each other for about six months, they said.

Initially, they hid their relationship from their families fearing the opposition to their teenage love as Vijay is a year younger to Radhika. However, their true love, which had the backing from her sister from the beginning, later won their parents’ hearts too. However, the couple still delayed settling down together as they were focused on building their careers before doing so. Vijay, 35, is now the chief investment officer with Century Financial and Radhika, 36, is the chief control officer at HSBC.

In this era, their story is almost like a beautiful fairy tale, Punit M.K Vasu, CEO of The Indian High Group of Schools, said in a statement to Gulf News. “Two souls who met as children end up together, forever. They graduated from the Indian High School almost two decades back and have spent the most precious years together at our campus. They have walked the same halls, had the same teachers, they have played and eaten together and most importantly they have grown up together at this very place. We are so happy to be such an integral part of their story. We wish them luck, love and lifetime of adventure together with marital bliss.”

The couple also thanked the school. “I definitely would like to thank the school from the bottom of my heart. Firstly, for providing us a great education which is the building block of our careers and also for being so accommodating to allow me to set up a grand proposal to my childhood sweetheart. A big thanks to the CEO and to Nidhi for coordinating everything for us,” said Vijay.

The oldest Indian school in Dubai might have seen several love stories emerging out of the campus. But, #ViRa’s story is definitely unique.

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Vijay and Radhika, along with their family and friends, at the IHS premises on Saturday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

What were the cues?

If you are still intrigued to know the romantic cues that Vijay sent to Radhika to reach the five proposal venues, here you go.

*R*adhika Doshi, the longest drought we have ever gone without talking to each other ended in this place. It is the place you told me that you hate moving to Hong Kong and made me realise that I am running out of time. A place with good music and a memory of my decision making time.

*A* place where almost all of our initial dates took place, the place where I first asked you out. A very significant part of our childhood, it shows who we are and where we come from. We discovered each other’s stupidity and bachpana (childish behaviour) here and hope that stays forever.

*D*ay was your 24th birthday and what started our relationship again after me coming back to Dubai. I was your surprise on that birthday and I hope to surprise you and be your gift for eternity. PS: Have upgraded to the same place with a better view cos La Vie.

*H*ai apna dil toe awara to hume tumse pyaar kitna! (My heart is wanton, I love you so much!) You have transformed me. Happiness has always been with you and you are my heavenly bliss. Let’s take a ride to the skies of our favourite city on yet another first with you.

*I* was a young chap once and you a chirpy clown,

We met here for the first time face to face.

There are times I wish we could go back down,

To the time where life was lazy and not about the race.

I fell in love with you here while realising the differences between a verb and a noun,

And had started to get on my chase.

Together here, we shared our laughter and our frown,

In our lifetime this would always be our base.

My dream is to see you in your wedding gown.

And then grow old with you in our humble abode with an amazing fireplace.

Would you do the honour and make me the happiest person in town. Please marry me in a spiritual embrace.