About the Book
Many scholars have concerned themselves with the problems of working women. The author of this volume, Dr. (Smt.) Bharati Debi, has also involved in studying the problem. Her study differs from others, to be accredited as being the first anthropological attempt in addressing this topical field. It is based on data generated through the first hand research investigation designed and accomplished meaningfully.
This micro study harps on the intimate problems of working women like work, working environment, home, family, interpersonal relationship, status, etc. By so doing, it tries to asses the role of working women that swings between the two diametrically opposite poles, poles of home and work. How skillfully and harmoniously they are attempting to synthesize these two roles, striking a balance between change and continuity has been highlighted through the study.
About the Author
Dr. (Smt.) Bharati Debi is one of the scientists in the Anthropological Survey of India. Born in 1944, she was educated at the Calcutta University and obtained M.Sc. degree in Anthropology in 1964. She was later awarded Ph.D. (Science) degree in 1981 by the same University for her contribution on the current problems relating to the middle class working women of Calcutta. She joined the survey in 1965; and since then she has been working in all the braches of anthropology but has specialised in the study of women. Currently she is engaged with her own project “Working Mother and Child.”
Besides she has especially developed a deep interest in human palaeontology and palaeoanthropology. She is also preparing manuscripts of her ensuing book. “Facts and Theories of Human Evolution.”
She has to her credit more than dozen research papers, published in various professional journals.
This account on continuity and change of the middle class working women of Calcutta is based on the data generated through first hand research investigation carried out by Dr Bharati Debi during l974-75. She has interviewed 424 working women belonging to three occupational categories, namely teachers, office workers, and technical personnel of Calcutta city. The author began with the working hypothesis that gainful employment of women outside home brings forth a series of change in their family composition, inter-personal relationship and economic roles that in turn results in concomitant change of status of women. Information gathered through. a partly structured and partly open—ended questionnaire have been analysed and interpreted with an appreciable degree of success in the three chapters on Women at Work, Women at Home, and Women at two Situations. The resultant processes, that determine the status of women, have been dealt with and summed up in another chapter bearing a similar title. Besides, with an introductory essay and some attempt for generalization, the Middle Class Working Women of Calcutta presents a fairly intimate picture about transformation process that the status of women has undergone over the periods of history.
The level of progress of a society, particularly one among those, who belong to the post-agricultural phase, is sometimes measured in terms of the degree of emancipation enjoyed by women of that society. But an exercise of this kind ordinarily is bound to raise many more questions than what it can possibly answer, since women as such cannot be considered as a homogenous social cultural category. In view of this fact, Dr Bharati Debi’s specific reference to the women of a definable socio economic class speaks of her discretion in the research strategy.
It is by now well-known that education as well as economic emancipation have positive association with status of women, since the former has influence upon the nature of gainful employment of women outside home. To what extent such exposures and consequent attainment of status could free women from their responsibilities at the domestic front is a very crucial issue and Dr Bharati Debi dealt with the matter quite extensively. Nevertheless, since the middle class in all societies are by and large found to have a general inclination toward striking a delicate balance between the apparently opposed tendencies of subscription to modernity and tradition, the middle class women of Calcutta are no exceptions in this respect. The author, besides highlighting those tendencies, also tried to pin-point the areas where the middle class women, according to her assessment, have experienced maximum difficulty in crossing the threshold.
There could be some disagreements with the author about her nature of delineation of the middle class as such. But since that is primarily the matter of operational definition in a given context, that does not in any way reflect upon the value of this first-hand account on the subject about which so little is known. Dr Bharati Debi deserves our appreciation for making this valuable contribution.
The genesis of this study goes way back to a little more than a decade ago when I was a daily passenger for attending office from a suburban station of the Eastern Railway. I used to board a compartment, reserved for ladies. Until the destination was reached everyday, to and fro, I had to be confined completely within the world of women alone. During that time, obviously, I had to react to the discussions, mentally, of course that centered round more commonly with the tiring plight of the working women. The discussions were unsystematic, hovering on many of the then current affairs, but mostly ended up with the difficulties that they were to face everyday in managing the two vital fronts of their life. These related precisely to the problems of balancing the situations at home and at work. Unconsciously, however, the problem brewed in my mind, provocating me, as an anthropologist, to take up a study, if opportunity comes. It came fortunately, and I consciously plunged myself into the world and the problems of the working women. I worked on it faithfully and systematically, formulating an empirical and analytical study, under the auspices of the Anthropological Survey of India, which earned for me a Ph. D. degree of the Calcutta University.
This study may be considered as a micro study, focussing on the problems of middle class working women of Calcutta. It, however, in any way, does not claim to view the whole in the larger context of a comprehensive macro study. Rather it looks at women through the perspective of their work and specifically seeks to determine how they function as agents of tradition and change, as well as how continuity and change affect them. To name all the individuals, including my working women informants, who rendered a whole hearted support to see that this work takes a fruitful shape, will make a long list. I refrain from doing this, but I sincerely render my deep sense of gratitude to all of them.
The project was assigned to me on the eve of the International Women’s Year by the Director, Anthropological Survey of India. I, therefore, feel particularly indebted to the Director, Anthropological Survey of India, for the opportunity and facilities given for the completion of the study. In this connection, I must make it very clear that the interpretations drawn upon and the views presented here are entirely mine; onus should not, naturally, lie with others.
Let me now set down my personal obligations to those who were particularly helpful in some very special way.
In the area of academic sphere, I owe a very special debt of gratitude to Prof. N. C. Chowdhury of the Department of Sociology and Cultural Anthropology, North Bengal University, who very kindly acted as my supervisor for the Ph. D. dissertation. Dr. Pratap C. Dutta is rather a category of his own. Not only he took an abiding interest in my work but also stimulated my enthusiasm for carrying out the research work, since it inception through the completion of the project.
Dr. A. K. Danda, Director, Anthropological Survey of India, has obliged me by writing a foreword of this small volume.
I would also like to record my sincere gratitude to Dr. A. Basu, Dr. S. B. Nandi, Dr. B. C. Roychowdhury, Dr. P. K. Dasgupta, Dr. B. K. Dasgupta, Dr. D. P. Mukherjee, Dr. (Mrs) Jyoti Sen, Dr. S. B. Chakrabarti, Sri T. N. Pandit for rendering valuable suggestions at many crucial times. I am indebted to my good friend Shri A. P. Nandan for his much needed assistance at all stages of the work.
I wish to record my gratefulness to Sri M. M. Das of the Publication Section for his overall supervision in printing the book and particularly to Shri Pijush Kanti Mukherjee for care and pain he took in bringing out this volume.
I am thankful to Sri Jayanta Acharyya of the Camellia Advertising Services, Calcutta—6, for appropriately conceiving and nicely designing the dust jacket of this volume.
Last but not the least; I owe a great deal to my husband, Late Benoy Bhusan Chakraborty, not only for his fullest support and confidence in me, but also for his valuable cooperation and unfailing encouragement.
It would be sheer injustice if I don’t express thanks to my two little daughters, Bhaswati and Shaswati. They not only patiently shared my anxiety during the past few years, but also were keen in asking me regularly, Main, when the study would see the light of the day. They must now he feeling happy with me.
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