Not looking for love, they found it on Google

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In the summer of 2017, Mrinal Kalakrishnan and Preeti Murali Talwai came to a crossroads.

They had met last October as colleagues at Google’s X Research Lab, also known as the “Moonshot Factory,” in Mountain View, California. Ms. Talwai was referred to see Dr. Kalakrishnan, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Southern California, about a project.

Although they were on different teams — hers focused on user experience and hers on robotics — the two quickly became work friends who often messaged each other throughout the day. “I was very struck by how caring he was,” Ms Talwai, 30, said of her first conversations with Dr Kalakrishnan, 39.

Their friendship eventually evolved to include shared lunches or dinners at the office, and by August 2017 they had started hanging out together off the clock. But that month, Ms Talwai accepted a new role at Google that required her to work in a different office from that of Dr Kalakrishnan, who had recently begun to feel that his feelings for her had become more than platonic.

Faced with the prospect of spending a lot less time with her, “I kind of realized, hey, I really love this person, and she won’t be working in the same building again,” Dr. Kalakrishnan said. “That’s when I realized that, hey, maybe we should explore something more than friendship.” Over dinner at a tapas restaurant near his apartment in San Francisco, he asked Ms. Talwai if she would consider dating him.

At first, she hesitated. Although both have Indian families, Ms Talwai said she struggled to see past some of the differences in their lifestyles: he liked to spend his free time outdoors, for example, while she preferred to read and write poetry.

But they had grown so close that she couldn’t help but imagine what a romance with Dr. Kalakrishnan might be like. Given their existing bond, “I think we both knew that we probably wanted to have a serious relationship with each other and it wouldn’t be something casual,” she said.

Their first official date came shortly after Dr. Kalakrishnan broached the subject. They started by seeing an exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, before having lunch at a Mexican restaurant, then traveling to Palo Alto, California, for dinner. The date ended with them driving through the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they watched the annual Perseid meteor shower.

From there, Ms Talwai said, “we just spent all of our time together”. They also disclosed their relationship to their separate managers at Google.

About a year after they started dating, Ms Talwai, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, began to develop worsening symptoms. She had to go to the doctor more often and have a colonoscopy. The unwavering support Dr. Kalakrishnan showed her at that time only deepened her love for him, she said.

“He was there for the unglamorous parts of my life, and really was a solid partner through it,” Ms Talwai said, adding that his consistency “confirmed my awareness and belief that this was really serious.” .

In November 2019, the couple moved in together, in an apartment in Mountain View. Dr. Kalakrishnan is now head of robot learning at Everyday Robots, a division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Ms. Talwai is the head of user experience research at Google.

Soon after they started living together, Dr. Kalakrishnan started thinking about the best way to propose. He decided to tell the couple’s love story in an animated poem, which he turned into a video set to music that he had composed himself. In May 2020, after playing the video of Ms Talwai in their living room, he asked her to marry him.

By then she had been “supporting me in so many different ways, bringing out the best version of me,” Dr. Kalakrishnan said.

On July 14, the couple married at a private residence they had rented in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Prem Talwai, Ms Talwai’s younger brother, officiated after being deputized as temporary celebrant by the County Clerk’s Office. in San Mateo County, California.

The only in-person guests were the bride’s parents, who live in El Dorado Hills, California. the groom’s parents and sister, who live in Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, India, attended virtually.

Dr Kalakrishnan always “accepted me for who I was”, Ms Talwai said, including “all the parts that I thought were hard to accept or weird or unflattering”. Of the bride, the groom said, “She’s become, pretty much, my best friend.”


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