Doing it right the second time

While the first few days of college were a blur for Neil Mahesh Chitrao, one moment in particular stands out: when he met Aastha Wadhwa at the 2017 Cornell college class convocation ceremony.

“I remember introducing myself to Aastha, and my first impression was that she was very confident and very outgoing,” said Mr. Chitrao, 27. “I was very impressed with that.”

Mrs. Wadhwa was also impressed by Mr. Chitrao, and the two became fast friends. They spent much of the fall of 2013 studying together, and since Mr. Chitrao had a car, they were able to explore Ithaca, NY, where they often tried new restaurants.

Although Mrs. Wadhwa saw Mr. Chitrao as a friend in the first year they knew each other, Mr. Chitrao was in love with Mrs. Wadhwa. In February 2015, he called her to ask her on a date, but she declined. Ms. Wadhwa said she was afraid that if she and Mr. Chitrao started dating and later broke up, she would lose a close friend.

“Our groups of friends were so intertwined, it felt like if we weren’t going anywhere it would have become very awkward and uncomfortable,” said Ms Wadhwa, 26.

However, her rejection did not extinguish his crush, and Mr. Chitrao found that being around Mrs. Wadhwa was painful after she rejected him. He began to distance himself from her, and apart from a few trips to hike to waterfalls in the area that summer, they barely saw each other.

“I honestly didn’t take that with the maturity I would like,” Mr Chitrao said of Ms Wadhwa’s initial rejection. “I was really sad. I was quite depressed.”

In September 2015, Mrs. Wadhwa’s friends threw a surprise party for her birthday. She was excited to celebrate, but as she looked around the room, her heart sank. Mr Chitrao was not at the party.

“I remember just looking around and thinking Neil wasn’t there, and I really missed him,” Ms Wadhwa said. “Then I realized I liked him too.”

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

A few days later, Mrs. Wadhwa texted Mr. Chitrao and he asked her out again. Mrs. Wadhwa agreed and Mr. Chitrao planned an elaborate outing with dinner, dessert and a movie.

“It was actually the most fun date,” said Mrs. Wadhwa. “It was so well thought out.”

Within a few months, the couple met each other’s family, and before long Mrs. Wadhwa’s younger sister would ask Mr. Chitrao for advice instead of Mrs. Wadhwa.

“I just remember thinking that if Neil can fit in with my family so well and adopt my sister as his own sister, I realized I was in love with him,” Ms Wadhwa said.

As their time with Cornell came to an end, Mr. Chitrao, who had devoted four years to pre-med studies, said he no longer wanted to pursue a career in medicine. While exploring other options, he said he was grateful to have Mrs. Wadhwa by his side.

“The end of college was a pretty scary time,” Mr. Chitrao said. “I almost felt out of control, and it was actually Aastha who was a major stabilizing force for me.”

After graduating from Cornell in 2017, the couple stayed in Ithaca for another year while Ms. Wadhwa completed a master’s degree in health administration from college. In September 2018, they moved to Jersey City, NJ, and Mr. Chitrao began law school at NYU

He now works as an associate at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Ms. Wadhwa is an associate at the Alvarez and Marsal consulting firm in New York.

A month after they moved to New Jersey, Mr. Chitrao surprised Ms. Wadhwa by making a proposal on a rowboat in Central Park.

The couple married on October 29 at the Legacy Castle, a wedding venue in Pompton Plains, NJ, in front of 180 guests. Sulbha Khare, a Hindu priestess, performed.

“The people he cares about and loves, he goes above and beyond,” Ms Wadhwa said of Mr Chitrao. “I know he’s going to be the best husband.”

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