When Vaishali Chandorkar Chitale first met her now-husband Prashant, she didn’t think a wedding would ever be on the cards for her. She had, after all, already lost her first husband, an Indian army man, and had committed herself to raising her children on her own. Her late husband was, in her words, the ‘love of her life’, and she didn’t think she would ever find someone like him again.
But fate – and her mother – had other plans, and it wasn’t long before she was introduced to Prashant and began a whole new chapter of her life.
In Indian society, widow re-marriage is still a taboo subject in many households. However, when it came to Vaishali, it wasn’t just her mother who had urged her to think about marrying again but also her father-in-law (her first’s husband father) who took it upon himself to make sure she didn’t hold back when it came to her life. She decided to give marriage another chance; but not without terms attached.
“I really had a few conditions when it came to agreeing for a second marriage. I wanted the person to have a daughter because I myself have a daughter. I wanted someone who had also lost their partner because I wanted to freely talk about my memories of my first husband and I wanted them also to talk about their past. Just because you are moving on doesn’t mean you don’t love someone any less,” she notes.
She knew she had met her ideal match when she spoke to Prashant, who had lost his wife to cancer. While her own family was accepting, it was much later that Vaishali found out that some of her friends had spoken against her second marriage.
However the only people that she was worried about were the kids who, she says, got along with one another from the beginning. Though there were some hiccups along the way.
“His eldest daughter was 22 at the time and she took time to accept the fact that her father had decided to remarry. But then I sat down with her and we had a long discussion where I made sure she knew that I was a friend and wasn’t here as someone who was here to replace her mother,” she says.
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Now there were five kids beginning a common journey to becoming a family, but along the way they came to love one another and accept one another as well. Vaishali insists that nothing was forced upon them. “My kids from my first husband kept their surnames and were never told to forget their father. They call my husband, uncle and his kids called me maasi (aunt). It’s the small things that happen during the course of life that bring you closer. It’s homework and going with the kids for their admissions…just being there for them,” she muses.
Now, 15 years later, they are a successful cosmopolitan hybrid family with plenty of love to go around. When Prashant’s daughter got married, she turned to Vaishali and asked her if she could call her “mom”, since she had been just that for so many years. It was a moment Vaishali says she will cherish forever.
One of the main reasons her second marriage is successful is that, according to Vaishali, she and her husband never argued over each other’s finances or the children. “He told me to keep my own house and we knew right from the get-go that neither one of us was marrying the other for money. And we never fought over the kids and how they were going to be raised.” Today he is her best friend, she notes.
Over the years, because of her own experiences, Vaishali has become something of a champion and a counselor for other women who have lost their husbands. She advises many to not stop living their lives and to continue in their pursuit for happiness. “I would say that the most important thing is that you are happy. You shouldn’t care about society. I have advised girls who have lost their husbands and have told them that it wasn’t a cue for them to stop living their lives.”
While remarkable, it is quite possible that Vaishali’s story about her family may have never caught the public’s eye had it not been for the fact that she and Prashant were featured on the highly popular Humans of Bombay Facebook page. Immediately going viral, the post was shared over 1,700 times and garnered 26,000 likes in about two months. Perhaps it was the message of acceptance and second chances that had the world applauding.
“I was married to the love of my life, an army man who I had two beautiful children with. I used to be a journalist and…
In fact, she points out the comments on the Humans of Bombay page itself were proof that people are now more accepting of widow re-marriage than before. “90% of the comments on the post were incredibly positive. There was negativity as well but it is best to ignore that. It’s important to spread this message to people, that one should not judge another person until they have been through the same situations in life.”
Does she ever wonder why tens of thousands of people across the country melted (figuratively) when they heard her story? Vaishali laughs and throws out a theory. “It is a feel-good story! But we had to work for it.”