Where to begin! Manisha and I met back in the first grade at Salt Creek Elementary School. She was new to the school and as soon as I saw her, I KNEW she had to be my friend. I was a super-shy and quiet six-year-old and not really great with words. I gathered up my courage, walked up to Manisha one day, and asked her, point blank, if she would be my friend. Much to my relief, she said yes, and we spent the next eight years glued at the hip! So when, 20 years later, she asked me to do a photo shoot of her and her boyfriend/soon-to-be-fiance, I was ecstatic! Little did Manisha know, as soon as she scheduled the photo session, her boyfriend, Kandarp, began planning his surprise proposal so that I could be there to photograph the big moment.
During their photo session, we did a little bit of everything. Manisha and Kandarp started off in their traditional Indian clothes to celebrate their heritage and culture. Manisha’s sari was gorgeous, and everyone kept stopping to tell her how beautiful she looked! The couple did several different outfit and location changes to get a sampling of their favorite things about Chicago. We took pictures along Kinzie Street Bridge, then headed over to a more industrial setting for photos. From there, we headed to Oak Street Beach for some fun in the sun, water and sand. Manisha and Kandarp’s love for each other is so obvious and genuine — it radiates from their photos. I hardly had to tell them to do anything because they were just so adorable on their own! After the beach, it was proposal time. Kandarp had planted the ring and his special surprise in my camera bag before we headed to our final stop.
We headed up north to Lincoln Park Zoo. (Originally, the plan was to go to Chicago’s Museum Campus, but because of the NATO Summit being held in Chicago that weekend, the city closed off the campus earlier than scheduled and we were forced to make a quick decision for a new proposal spot). I walked the couple across the street to take photos along the nature trails and prairie grass outside of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (one of my favorite spots in the whole city!). I was hoping that would give Kandarp a chance to relax and calm his nerves before asking Manisha the big question. As the sun began to set, we walked over to the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool and looked for the perfect spot.
Earlier, Kandarp had given me the pieces to a puzzle he had made by hand for Manisha with their favorite photo of the two of them printed on top. In hopes of keeping the proposal a surprise for a little bit longer, I presented the puzzle, told her that I made the puzzle as a special prop for their photo shoot, and asked if they would assemble the pieces for me. At the end, she discovered that four pieces were missing, and Kandarp confessed he had them hidden in his pocket. As he revealed the missing pieces one at a time, she realized the pieces said “Manisha, will you marry me?” As he presented her with the final piece, Kandarp got down on one knee, presented the ring, and asked her the most important question he’ll ever ask. The surprised look on Manisha’s face was priceless, and I definitely teared up a bit! Of course, she said yes, and the newly engaged couple spent the rest of their evening soaking in their love and joy. I am so happy that I could be there to photograph such a special memory for one of my oldest and dearest friends! I wish the two of them the best of luck and happiness.
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