In the summer of 2017, Mrinal Kalakrishnan and Preeti Murali Talwai arrived at a crossroads.
They had met the previous October as colleagues at Google’s X research lab, also known as “the moonshot factory,” in Mountain View, Calif. Ms. Talwai was told to consult with Dr. Kalakrishnan, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Southern California, about a project.
Though they were on different teams — hers focused on user experience and his on robotics — the two soon became work friends who would often message each other throughout the day. “I was very struck by how thoughtful he was,” Ms. Talwai, 30, said about her early 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 while off the clock. But that month, Ms. Talwai accepted a new position at Google that required her to work at a different office than Dr. Kalakrishnan, who had recently started to sense that his feelings for her had become more than platonic.
Faced with the prospect of spending far less time with her, “I kind of realized like, hey, I really like this person, and she’s actually not going to be working in the same building anymore,” Dr. Kalakrishnan said. “That’s when it dawned upon me that, hey, we should maybe 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 going on a date with him.
Initially, she was hesitant. Although both have families from India, Ms. Talwai said she had trouble seeing past some of the differences in their lifestyles: He liked to spend his free time outdoors, for instance, 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 look like. Given their existing bond, “I think we both knew that we probably wanted to be in a serious relationship with each other, and that it wouldn’t be something casual,” she said.
Their official first date came soon after Dr. Kalakrishnan broached the subject. They began it by seeing an exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, before having lunch at a Mexican restaurant and then heading to Palo Alto, Calif., for dinner. The date ended with them driving up into the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they watched the annual Perseids meteor shower.
From then, 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 began dating, Ms. Talwai, who has ulcerative colitis, started to develop worsening symptoms. She had to go to the doctor more frequently and get 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 was really a solid partner through that,” Ms. Talwai said, adding that his steadfastness “confirmed my realization and my belief that this was really serious.”
In November 2019, the couple moved in together, into an apartment in Mountain View. Dr. Kalakrishnan is now the robot learning lead at Everyday Robots, a division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Ms. Talwai is a user experience research lead at Google.
Soon after they started living together, Dr. Kalakrishnan began thinking about the best way to propose. He decided to chronicle the couple’s love story in an animated poem, which he made into a video set to music he had composed himself. In May 2020, after playing the video for Ms. Talwai in their living room, he asked her to marry him.
By then she had “supported me in so many different ways, bringing out the best version of me,” Dr. Kalakrishnan said.
On July 14, the couple wed at a private residence they had rented in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. Prem Talwai, Ms. Talwai’s younger brother, officiated at the ceremony after being deputized as a temporary officiant by the County Clerk’s Office in San Mateo County, Calif.
The only in-person guests were the bride’s parents, who live in El Dorado Hills, Calif.; the groom’s parents and sister, who live in Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore, India, attended virtually.
Dr. Kalakrishnan has always “accepted me for who I was,” Ms. Talwai said, including “all the parts that I thought may be hard to accept or may be weird or unflattering.” Of the bride, the groom said, “She became, pretty much, my best friend.”