(CNN) — Nupur Gupta was nearing the end of a two-week stint teaching at a yoga retreat in Goa, India.
It was February 2019 and the weather was balmy, bathing Goa’s famous beaches in a warm glow. The sea glistened, invitingly.
In between yoga practice, Gupta always made time for a swim.
On this particular day, she floated out further than she usually would. When she realized how strong the current was, it was too late. The water had started to pull her under.
She tried not to panic.
“I knew somewhere that, ‘Okay, if I constantly, and with consistency, keep swimming, I might make it,'” she tells CNN Travel today.
Whenever Gupta attempted to crawl back to shore, the current dragged her under and she’d fight her way back to the surface, gasping for air.
“Then I saw this man coming towards me.”
This was Attila Bosnyak, a financial adviser in his forties hailing from Hungary but based in the Netherlands.
Coincidentally, Bosnyak was a student at Gupta’s yoga retreat where, he says, he’d been trying to “disconnect from the hustle and work pressure and the Dutch winter.”
Gupta didn’t teach Bosnyak’s beginners group, so they’d never spoken directly.
Bosnyak was a strong swimmer, so he wasn’t scared, but he was struggling to reach Gupta in the face of the strong current.
“He came very close to me, to hold my hand and pull me out, but just about that time I was pulled in by the ocean,” says Gupta.
That’s when Bosnyak realized that, even if he could get hold of Gupta’s hand, he wasn’t strong enough to pull her back to the shore alone.
Glancing around, trying to stay calm, he spotted a nearby cluster of rocks that were blocking Gupta and Bosnyak from the view of anyone on shore.
Bosnyak figured if he could climb on top of one of them, he could wave back to land and catch a lifeguard’s attention, but there was a risk of being thrown onto a rock and injuring himself.
“So I tried to do it carefully,” Bosnyak recalls. “But I couldn’t really, so two, three, four times I was basically pushed onto the rock by the wave.”
From Gupta’s perspective, it looked like her potential savior was drifting uncontrollably.
“That’s when I panicked,” she says, recalling thinking: “What if the wave just throws me on the rock and I have a head injury or something?”
Eventually Bosnyak managed to clamber on top, and pull himself to his feet. Waving and shouting, he caught the attention of the lifeguard on the beach, who swam out immediately.
The lifeguard assisted Gupta back to the beach, while Bosnyak swam on ahead.
It was only when Bosynak reached the shore that he realized he was bleeding.
“Especially my back and my thighs because of the scratches, and my fingers — because I’d tried to hold on to the rock,” he recalls.
“My heart sank when I saw that, because it just made me realize that what this man just did to help someone, to help me,” says Gupta.
As Bosynak, exhausted, collapsed onto a sun bed, Gupta jogged to the nearest store to get some disinfectant and, on a whim, chocolate ice cream.
Back on the beach, Gupta started tending to Bosnyak’s wounds. Then she handed him the ice cream and he smiled gratefully.
“Something changed, for me, in that moment,” she recalls. “There was a click in my heart somewhere.”
Bosnyak felt it too, even as he lay there, bleeding.
“I think that was a magic moment,” he says.
After it was established that they were both okay, besides the scratches and the shock, Bosnyak and Gupta made their way back to the yoga center together, talking as they walked.
Back at the resort, shattered, they returned to their respective rooms to rest, but reconnected later that day at dinner.
There, they introduced themselves to one another properly. At first, the conversation lingered on their unexpected life or death experience.
They talked about where they were both from, what had brought them to Goa, and quickly realized how well they got on, chatting into the the evening, then picking up again the next day.
The yoga retreat was due to end the day after, with Bosnyak planning to fly back to the Netherlands and Gupta catching the train back to Kerala, where she lived.
But Gupta was starting to wish they had a bit more time to get to know one another.
Could they postpone their journeys home and spend some more time together in Goa, she wondered?
“But to say it out loud or ask it out loud was also a bit… you have inhibitions,” she says now.
Luckily, Bosnyak was on the same page. They both agreed to postpone their returns by a week and instead they spent Valentine’s Day 2019 together, taking long walks on Goa’s beaches, kayaking and exploring the region’s Portuguese churches.
And as their extra week together came to an end, they celebrated Gupta’s birthday.
“That morning, I remember we had this breakfast together and Attila drove me to the station before he left,” she recalls.
Both of them were excited about what had happened.
“It was a good feeling — that you found somebody with a connection and he would just leave that big smile on your face, and that tingling feeling, that butterflies,” says Gupta.
The two promised to stay in touch.
“That started really a beautiful couple of months, chatting, WhatsApping, video calling more and more,” says Bosnyak.
Despite being separated by oceans, they soon knew each other’s daily routines by heart, and spoke every day.
A leap of faith
About a month after they left Goa, Bosnyak called Gupta.
“We should take this connection forward,” he said.
“My heart was pounding and I immediately agreed without any second thoughts, despite knowing that it’s a huge distance, different cultures, continents, countries, cities,” says Gupta.
They decided to officially embark on a long-distance relationship.
“I wanted to do this. I mean, I wanted to have this experience. I loved his vibe for that time when I was around him and I was very happy,” recalls Gupta.
Looking for a destination roughly halfway between India and the Netherlands to meet up for a vacation, they’d begun to seriously consider Dubai when outside influences took hold.
Gupta’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was scheduled for emergency surgery.
“I knew I had to be there,” Gupta recalls now. She left Kerala and flew to her family home in Lucknow, in the north of India, to support her family.
“My days were [spent] discussing her health and finding the right hospital, the right doctor along with my family, and I saw my mom very low and unhealthy,” Gupta recalls.
Flying to Dubai — or indeed even leaving Lucknow — was off the table.
“My heart was pounding and I immediately agreed without any second thoughts, despite knowing that it's a huge distance, different cultures, continents, countries, cities”
A tearful Gupta phoned Bosnyak one evening and explained that she wouldn’t be able to meet him anywhere for the next few months.
Bosnyak helped comfort her from afar, and as they were talking, an idea started to percolate.
“What about if I traveled out there, to be with you?” he suggested.
Gupta couldn’t believe this man she’d met just once would be willing to do that for her, but she felt instant relief at the thought of Bosnyak being by her side.
She suggested he come after her mother’s operation.
The procedure was successful, and after some recovery time in hospital, Gupta’s mother was back home.
Not long afterward, Bosnyak arrived in Delhi Airport, Gupta was there to meet him at Arrivals.
En route to Lucknow, the couple stopped off at Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
Gazing at the spectacular marble building, they shared a significant moment. Bosnyak got down on one knee and proposed.
It wasn’t a marriage proposal but a promise to love one another, and to commit to making their relationship work.
Gupta’s family couldn’t wait to meet the man who’d saved her life and swept her off her feet.
“I’ve never seen them this excited to meet a boy,” says Gupta, laughing.
Bosnyak fit right in right away.
“Everything was so organic,” says Gupta.
It was the perfect trip, the grand romantic gesture at the Taj Mahal complemented by quieter moments of Bosnyak supporting Gupta and bonding with her family.
Everything felt so natural that the idea of Bosnyak leaving, and the two being separated again, was hard to stomach.
A Dutch reunion
The couple decided that once Gupta’s mother was fully recovered, Gupta would apply for a visa that would allow her to spend a month with Bosynak in the Netherlands.
But with legal complications meaning a likely six month delay, the pair decided to meet wherever they could — Dubai in the height of the summer and then Serbia.
“Not a usual romantic destination, I guess,” says Bosnyak, who explains they picked their locations based on Indian visa requirements.
“But we really enjoyed our stay there. We were swimming in the Danube and Sava rivers and really exploring that city. We rented an Airbnb, so we lived like a couple.”
It was a taste of a future life together they hoped was on the cards.
Their final meet up was in Thailand. Not long after, in September 2019, Gupta received her Dutch visa and flew to the Netherlands a month later, moving into the apartment where Bosnyak lived in in The Hague.
It was an idyllic few months. The couple traveled to Hungary together to visit Bosnyak’s family, and they spent happy weekends exploring the Netherlands.
While they were both thrilled to finally be together, for Gupta, it was also a huge move that required acclimatizing to a different country and culture as well as finding a job.
“It was a 360-degree shift for me,” she says.
The cold Dutch winter was an adjustment. It was also strange, Gupta says, being an Indian woman in Bosnyak’s very white, Dutch neighborhood.
But before long she had befriended many of Bosnyak’s friends and colleagues, and also connected with other Indian expats.
And she kept in close contact with friends and family back home via video calls.
As Bosnyak and Gupta spent more time together, their relationship deepened, and the idea of marriage, which had always been in the air, became the obvious next step.
For Gupta, the idea had been in the back of her mind since Bosnyak saved her life in Goa.
But it was when he visited Lucknow in the aftermath of her mother’s surgery, that Gupta felt sure she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man.
“I was secretly dreaming about marrying him already by then, I think,” she says.
“It was really natural,” says Bosnyak.
The couple say their friends — more used to dealing with the ups and downs of dating apps than saving a future partner from drowning — were blown away by the romance of Bosnyak and Gupta’s story.
Still, some were skeptical about whether the relationship would work in the humdrum reality of everyday. Others wondered if cultural differences might sever the connection.
“But you know, as time goes by, and we are still together — not just together but we love each other — they get an answer to those logical doubts,” says Bosnyak.
The couple hoped to bring together their friends and family from across the globe for a big wedding celebration.
But these plans were put on hold as other events took over.
A year in lockdown
Bosnyak and Gupta were married on March 21, 2020 in a modest ceremony with only a couple of witnesses at Trouwlocatie Groenmarkt, the former city hall of The Hague.
The Covid-19 pandemic had started to take hold in the Netherlands, and they were the last couple to get married at the venue before lockdown.
Bosnyak and Gupta went from counting down the days until they could reunite in a new destination to spending every day together in a small apartment.
“In a new relationship it’s a lot, and that also taught us a lot,” says Gupta, who says their one-year of marriage feels like far longer.
“It’s the acid test, I think, for a relationship,” agrees Bosnyak. “That you can live with that person for months and months and months with no events around, no places to visit, no fun activities apart from the ones you can invent inside your apartment — or during your short walks in the next one and a half, two kilometers in your neighborhood. So if you can make it, and keep on your happiness, then that relationship is rock solid.”
There were difficult moments along the way, but the couple were happy to be together, to be able to be there for one another and provide emotional support.
They also navigated their cultural differences along the way.
“We are both quite patient with other cultures and other thoughts and, other personalities, patient and empathic,” says Bosnyak.
“It was so fascinating to know someone so closely from a different country or culture,” says Gupta.
The two cooked for one another, introducing each other to their home cuisines and meeting halfway when their tastes diverged.
While they inevitably had disagreements, they tried to stay patient and pragmatic, and put themselves in the other person’s shoes.
Gupta, a dog lover, also successfully persuaded Bosnyak that they should get a puppy. Their dog Sukhi Ram joined the household in May 2020.
Gupta struggled to find work during the pandemic. She’d registered her own yoga company in the Netherlands, but had to pivot to teaching yoga online, mostly to friends back home.
When the EU eased Covid travel restrictions in summer 2020, Bosnyak and Gupta seized the opportunity to travel to Greece.
The three-week trip was a delayed honeymoon of sorts. The couple explored beautiful destinations including Santorini and Mykonos, where they were among some of the only tourists.
“We walked empty Santorini streets, watching sunsets and we also woke up at 6:30 in the morning to watch the sun coming up,” says Bosynak.
They also made it to Hungary to see Bosnyak’s family in August 2020, and enjoyed exploring the Netherlands’ castles and lakes together.
Holding onto hope
By the fall, Europe was experiencing another wave of Covid-19 and the long lockdown days returned.
The couple spent much of the winter months inside, caring for Sukhi Ram and looking after each other.
About a month ago, as spring started to bloom and the pandemic seemed to be subsiding in the Netherlands and in India, Gupta made the decision to travel back to her home country to see family and friends, including her newly born nephew.
Unfortunately Gupta’s arrival coincided with a spike in Covid cases in India, which has turned into a devastating second wave for the country.
Gupta caught the virus, and is currently recovering, with Bosnyak supporting her from afar.
“Right now, the situation is so overwhelming here,” says Gupta. “I see people struggling and I just hope that something gets better.”
Gupta and Bosnyak are currently focused on supporting family and friends who’ve been impacted by the disaster in India, and trying to find pockets of joy via planning for the future, and reflecting on the past.
They’re hoping to move to Athens, Greece next summer, as Bosynak has a job offer there, so they’re excited for this new adventure. They’re also considering starting a family.
And reflecting on how they met, and the series of coincidences that brought them together, never fails to put a smile on their faces.
“It really seems like a heaven sent relationship,” says Boysnak.
There are so many ingredients that led to where they are today, he explains. It’s not just the fact that they were both in Goa at the same time, or on the same retreat, or even that they were bonded by what happened in the sea. It was deeper than that.
“Because we could be completely different people, having some memories of that accident, but spending our lives in different places and different cultures, and continuing as we were before,” he says.
As for Gupta, she finds it funny that she’d often cancel dates with guys who lived only a few miles away, but ended up meeting and marrying someone from a different continent.
“There was so much positivity, and everything fell into place so organically,” she says. “There was so much trust and love at every turn, and I think that’s why we are together today.”