Poonam Jhunjhunwala (name changed on request) tied the knot with a boy her parents found suitable after matching their horoscopes. But within a week, the 22-year-old realised that marriages aren’t made in heaven. Not anymore. The world she entered, after growing up in a “traditional Marwari family”, was “completely alien” and “uncomfortably fast” for her. She struggled for six months to adjust, “failed miserably”, and returned to her parents. She is now divorced and struggling to live with “the stigma”.
Poonam’s is no isolated story. Divorce, a taboo in the city’s Marwari community till just the other day, is fast assuming ‘ghar, ghar ki kahani’ proportions. The phenomenon of formal separations is a reality rocking the once-rigid community, from high-profile Alipore apartments to middle-class Burrabazar bastions.
Now, to provide a platform for divorcees and prove that there is life after a failed marriage, the youth wing of the International Marwari Federation has decided to put forward the grand plan of Punarmilan (Reunion). It is not meant to bring estranged couples together, but to help divorcees find another life-partner. Moving with the modern times, a parichay sammelan, “for over 500 participants between 18 and 38 years”, will be organised in May or June.
“This will give divorcees, and even widows and widowers, a chance to start afresh,” says Sundeep Bhutoria, president of the Federation’s youth wing. “Given the inherent orthodoxy in our community, remarriage is taboo. But in view of the increasing number of separations, this is the only viable option.”
Asha Gourisaria Gutgutia, a high court lawyer, has been tracking the trend. “Marital disputes leading to divorce have surely increased among the Marwaris. The reasons for separation include new factors like non-alignment of preferences, lifestyles and economic differences,” she observes.
“We know that initially, there will be some opposition to Punarmilan from the more traditional sections of the community, but once a few hearts are united and homes are built, the problems will lessen,” observes Dinesh Bajaj, joint convener of the programme. For some Poonams within the community, Punarmilan could well mark a rebirth, more than a reunion.