SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Decked out in a classy red dress, Jyoti Banwait thought she was accompanying her friend to a glitzy work function on Sunday afternoon.
When her friend brought her to the California Capitol and a videographer appeared, Banwait knew something was up. Then she started seeing family members and friends - some of whom live in Southern California.
"I know she's into grand gestures,” her now-fiancé Satnam Singh told ABC10 with a smile.
"[I'm a] hopeless romantic at heart,” Banwait added.
Both Signh and Banwait are from Indian families, where they say parental approval is very important in choosing whom to marry. Both sets of parents heartily approve of this match, they told ABC10 with a smile.
Back at the Capitol Sunday afternoon, Singh was nowhere to be seen as Banwait passed along a pathway of friends and family members, each of whom handed her a rose. Scattered flower petals blanketed the grass as she walked.
When she reached the end of the line of loved ones, Singh’s sister escorted Banwait up the first flight of Capitol steps, onto a red, heart-shaped carpet.
Through a nearby speaker, Singh’s voice echoed.
“I love you so much, and I would like to invite you to the most important day of my life, alongside all our friends and family,” he said, still hidden from his girlfriend’s view.
Suddenly, an upbeat song started playing, and a crew of six dancers sprang out from behind the large pillars of the Capitol. They were dressed in the colorful, traditional costume of Bhangra dancers, a style of Indian folk dance.
"I turn around, and I see all these Bhangra dancers coming out towards me, and I was like, 'Whoa! What is going on?'” Banwait recalled. “They had this beautiful performance for me, and throughout that performance I would, like, smile and cheer for them, and then I would start getting emotional and start crying.”
Singh said he wanted to incorporate his and Banwait’s shared culture in this special day. “And the Capitol is the perfect location because that was actually our first date,” Singh said.
This elaborate proposal took "probably about three, four months of planning," Singh said. "Getting together the photographer, the Bhangha team at UC Davis, the mix (of songs), learning the choreo, inviting all our friends and family."
But the surprises didn’t stop there. After a couple of songs, Singh ran out from behind the pillars, dressed in a suit, and joined the dancers! He’d been practicing with these dancers – the UC Davis Bhangra Crew – for several months, and the work showed.
“He runs in and I was, like, just mind-blown,” Banwait said. “I think this was the first time he ever danced for me. I've never seen him perform anything!"
At that point, the crowd had grown to include strangers — on-lookers and passersby, who just happened to be strolling around the Capitol in time to witness this burst of love and culture.
“There's so many people around us in that moment,” Banwait said, but “it was just eye-to-eye and it was just me and him."
At the end of his dancing, Singh approached Banwait, gently took her hand and lead her to the center of the plaza, where he professed his love for her.
“Everything I said was not planned at all,” Singh told ABC10. “I didn't want it to be something rehearsed. Everything just washed away from me except her."
"I love you so much!” he said to her.
“I love you, too,” Banwait whispered back, emotionally.
“You have the greatest soul in the history of souls," he said.
Recalling that moment, Singh said he could’ve gone on for “two days” with good things to say to his then-girlfriend of three years.
"It's easy to do when it's your best friend,” Singh said.
Through all this, Banwait was both tearing up and beaming, her eyes locked on her boyfriend.
"To see all the great extent that he went through, just to make me feel this love and make me feel this joy,” she recalled. “The only thought that was going through my head and which was making me cry was, 'Oh my God, you're so lucky...You're so blessed.’”
Singh’s 1-year-old niece brought him the ring and he got down on one knee.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"Only if you marry me!" Banwait replied, dropping to her knees to clasp his hands in hers.
The two embraced, and then Singh prompted her to stand again, so he could slip the ring on her finger.
Banwait lives in Sacramento while Singh lives in Santa Rosa. The two of them, both 25 years old, have been dating for three years, but they met through friends when they were 16. As Singh recalls, it was love at first sight.
He asked Banwait on a date then, but she rejected his request, saying she was too young for that.
The two kept in touch. Singh went off to college, returned with a degree and asked again for a date.
This time, she said yes, turning from his friend into his girlfriend. And on Sunday, she became his fiancée.
Congratulations to the happy couple!
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