By Kelly McCormack - 02/14/07 12:00 AM EST
As if the gods were smiling down on them, the clouds parted and the sun came out when Dino Teppara proposed to Vatsala Alsi two weeks ago, as they looked out onto the Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island.
Teppara, 33, is chief of staff for Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) Alsi, 30, is a former aide for the Office of the General Counsel who now works as an attorney at a healthcare organization. They worked together on the same hall in the Cannon Office Building for 10 months without ever seeing each other. Teppara believes their paths didn’t cross because he used the garage entry, while she took another entrance closer to the Metro.
But one day last September, Teppara received an e-mail from Allen Martin, a South Carolinian and founding partner of the Livingston Group: “call me,” it read.
Martin told Teppara that he wanted to introduce him to someone over lunch. That someone was Alsi, who had been a friend of Martin’s daughter from their school days in Northern Virginia.
When his daughter came home for a friend’s wedding and met up with old friends, Martin saw Alsi for the first time in more than 10 years and something clicked. “Something went off in my head that she would be a perfect match for Dino,” he said, describing them both as “professional, polite and proper.”
But, “I had no idea that it would take off,” Martin said.
Martin thought it was strange that they worked in the same hall for 10 months and never saw each other. “You would think that they would’ve bumped into each other,” he said.
So the three met for lunch at Bistro Bis. But there were no fireworks.
“We both had the same [first] impressions of each other,” Teppara said. “There weren’t any sparks. She seemed kind of nice. It was a very ordinary meeting.”
Martin also didn’t sense any special chemistry between them.
“In terms of bells and whistles, I couldn’t detect that,” Martin said.
But Teppara then took Alsi to dinner at Rasika, and soon thereafter the pair began dating. At work, they would meet in the hallway and talk frequently on the phone.
After the first few weeks of dating, they started to see how much they had in common. “The chemistry grew,” Teppara explained.
They had similar personalities, liked the same food and enjoyed running. In addition, the families of both come from India. “We have very traditional values,” Teppara said.
Alsi’s family is from the Greater Bombay area, while Teppara’s is from the southern city of Hyderabad.
The relationship solidified further when Teppara worked on a campaign in Iowa this past fall. The couple spent every night talking on the phone.
After they met each other’s families, and after only four months of dating, Teppara decided to propose — on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 4. By that point, they had already discussed engagement, but Alsi declined the idea of a ring, saying she wanted him to be mindful of finances.
But following their discussion, Teppara wanted to surprise her more than ever. He had been planning to fly to South Carolina for the congressman’s annual staff retreat, so he booked a flight for Alsi to join him.
His secret plan then ran into a major snag: The jewelry store he had initially contacted could not get the diamond that he had picked out. In a mad rush, he e-mailed several jewelry stores before getting word from one South Carolina jeweler that it had the diamond he sought: a one-karat flawless solitaire engagement ring.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, but there is the perfect ring,” Teppara said.
For the engagement surprise, Teppara planned on having his parents ask the couple to drive to Hilton Head. The excuse was that he had to run an errand for his parents and “pay the gardener” — so he could propose on the beach. Alsi first declined, saying it wasn’t proper for them to travel without their families, but then agreed to go on Sunday.
They awoke early on Super Bowl Sunday and arrived near the ocean. Teppara proposed just as the weather cleared — as if on cue. He then proceeded to pay the gardener.
Alsi later told Teppara that she knew something was up.
“She’s very caring, affectionate and loyal,” Teppara said. “She’ll make a great wife and an even better mother.”
Soon thereafter, Teppara called Martin to thank him and tell him of their engagement.
“I was just thrilled, amazed, shocked and stunned,” said Martin, who was also introduced to his wife through a mutual friend. He felt like he was indirectly “returning that favor.”
There is no date yet, but the wedding will “definitely be this year,” Teppara said. “It will be a Hindu wedding — a traditional Indian wedding.” That means a two- to three-hour ceremony, a vegetarian-only lunch and a recreational dinner in the evening. There will be also dancing.
“It will be a mesh between the North and South Indian cultures,” Teppara said, noting that Indian weddings have wide regional differences.
“I’m excited because a lot of my friends on the Hill haven’t been to a traditional Indian wedding,” Teppara added.