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Down Memory Lane: Representations of Domestic Workers in Middle Class Personal Narratives of Colonial Bengal Author(s): Swapna M.

Banerjee Source: Journal of Social History, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Spring, 2004), pp. 681-708 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 27/07/2013 14:32
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ln the last decades of the twentieth century, the reasons for the long lack of popular representationcan be said to fall within the realm of common knowledge. We are aware of how society was structured in past times, of who wrote and read and who didn't, of the cultural consequences ofunequal power. Knowing all this, we are likely to assume that the dominators have monopolized the power to represent, while the dominated have no option but to endure passively throughcenturies of abusive synecdoche. ?Bruce Robbins, The Servant's Hand.1 If one rummages through the pages of autobiographies and memoirs left by Bengali middle-class men and women living in colonial times one cannot possibly miss the characters and activities of the domestic workers surrounding the au? thors as they were growing up. The repeated appearance of servants and maids in middle-class reminiscences testifies to the importance of this working popu? lation in the lives of their empioyers. Numerical evidence from the Censuses of India (1911, 1921, 1931) also suggests that domestic service constituted one of the principal occupations of colonial Bengal.2 From the 1880s on, there was an increasing demand in the hiring of servants in Bengal and by the first decade of the twentieth century domestic service accounted for 12 per cent of all oc? cupations in Calcutta, as opposed to 7.3 per cent in Bombay, 6.68 per cent in Madras, and 6.1 per cent in Delhi.3 The last few decades in South Asian history have witnessed a remarkable engagement of scholars with marginal social groups such as slaves, bonded labor, prostitutes, and working class women, not to mention women of upper and other middling classes. The new literature also brings to the fore the wider political implication of the home and the domestic space and their importance in the construction of individual and national identity.4 Striking by their absence in this literature on lower social groups are the domestic workers who constituted a major segment of the urban economy and were widely represented in differ? ent genres of Bengali writings. Meredith Borthwick (1984), while studying the Bengali women, has included brief ac? changing roles of nineteenth-century counts of servants, matchmakers, washing women, and midwives in bhadrahk families of colonial Calcutta.5 Radhika Singha (1998), examining the criminal justice system under colonial laws, gives us an account ofthe nature of employerdomestic relationships in the British households in India.6 Indrani Chatterjee (1999) brings to light the importance of slavery in ruling households of eastern India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.7 But the existing literature that concerns itself with family and domestic workers mainly tends to focus The lit? either on the contemporary period or on the middle class nationalists. erature misses out the significance ofthe colonial era and leaves the sphere ofthe

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in countries where research has been conducted on domestic workers there exist some public documents such as government or non-governmental organizations' reports and surveys.12 Yet albeit restricted in number. that provide the servants' perspective ofthe employ ing class. Attempting to fill this lacuna. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10 The composition of the colonial Bengali family. In spite ofthe close connection between the Bengali middle class and the domestic workers no attempt has been made yet to explore in depth how the middle-class culture and the associated reforming trends in society and economy impacted on domestic workers in colo? nial Bengal. Nor is there any account of how the Bengali middle class and the domestic workers interacted with and were perceived by each other. or records of the ser? vants themselves. the distribution of power within the household remain unaddressed in most works. while the household is concerned with activities like production.53. and most importantly.14 Here household and family are both treated as cultural constructs and not mutually independent and exclusive of each other.682 household journal of social history spring 2004 and the family relatively unproblematized.13 Given the remarkably high rate of illiteracy among the working population and the general apathy of preserving records there is almost no direct evidence on or from servants in colonial India. Family is recognized as the "conjugal kin group living in the same household. Undeniably. my paper explores one of the many facets of employer-servant relationships through a selective reading of middle-class per? sonal narratives. consumption.9 The family metaphoriis projected in opposition cally represented by the ghar (private/home/domestic) to the world represented by bahir (public). its changing structure. and meanings. The acute dearth of primary sources or written documents left by the servants themselves in the colonial period acts as a stumbling block.110. relying on the perceptions of the middle-class writers. values. The preoccupation of South Asian scholars with the middle class has been often attributed to the abundance of data and written documents available from the elites. its workings. Domestic workers did appear as an occupational category in the Indian censuses but that information is far from perfect." marked by symbols. the importance of the serving population in shaping the lives and identity of its employers in urban households compels us to re-think and re-situate them in proper historical perspective.11 Most of what we know about them is expressed in the discourse of their employers. Since the lives and views of domestic servants have not been recorded in Indian his? tory. While the story of domestic service in Bengal demands attention in its own right. it holds true for any country that the ser? vice class as subordinate actors in a hierarchically structured relationship rarely spoke freely or captured their feelings and imaginations in writing. The excessive focus on the middle-class members writes off the presence of differ? ent caste-class groups thereby completely ignoring the subordinate workers who were a common feature of colonial households. This essay underscores how people to the notion of the family are recruited into the through their commitment This content downloaded from 175. seeks to infer from them the nature ofthe relationships between employers and servants in middle-class households of colonial Bengal. and reproduction di? rected to the satisfaction of human needs. this paper. Since household remained the "site of production" for the domestics the latter were also ignored by the past generation of Indian labor historians who did not consider them as a constitutive segment of the "working-class" engaged in the daily battle for survival.198 on Sat.

This article is not an exercise in the argument over whether servants can speak or not. representations empioyers' paper investigates not only how domestic workers were represented but what justified a particular kind of representation by male and female writers. socialization. they actually reflect on the colonial times. a picture of servants wielding enormous power within colonial homes. For our purposes here we will consider only the indigenous of the Tagores and the ordinary Bengali middle class. kin solidarity forged. the essay focuses on a selective sample of Bengali personal narratives by both the male and female members of the bhadralok population that describe the "strength" and "authority" of servants within colonial families. professing monotheism. constructed. the of the the that mediated memories domestics. and the households ofthe ordinary middle class are among the many that hired servants for domestic help. and interests. A good part of my sources is constituted by the accounts ofthe Tagore family.19 The Brahmos. In the context of colonial India.53.18 Nor does it claim to recover the voice of servants from sources produced by their empioyers. the household was the primary arena where age and sex roles were determined. positively or negatively. the wealthy households of the early aristocrats such as that of the Tagores. This essay is about a particular kind of representations a prominent genre of Bengali middle-class literature. were a breakaway religious group from orthodox Hinduism in colonial Bengal.16 Furthermore. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . one of the aristocratic Brahmo families who came to reside in Calcutta around 1784. and economic cooperation took place. Far from an exhaustive study of various representations of servants in memoir literature.17 Colonial Bengal witnessed a tremendous growth of autobiographical literature that acted as a primary vehicle for articulating middle-class identity. It probes the basis of the and sentiments that turned servants into "important" actors and emotionality the Questioning points out the politics that lay behind such representations. all these authors under consideration reflect upon their experiences of growing up or interacting with servants. hierarchical positions. their accounts betray. First. paper and maintained employer-servant relationships on a basis of difference and "otherness" through the simultaneously nurturing and oppressive aspects of familial ties. The Tagore policies and played a key role in championing This content downloaded from 175. urban households in colonial Bengal entailed several ethnic and racial varieties belonging to different socio-economic strata: the households of the European/British officials working in India. Although some of the sources cited were published at a later date in the postcolonial period and may seem incongruous. households?that recollections of male Through two distinct but interrelated units?childhood of women's personal interactions with domestic writers and experiences documents how the dominant actors workers?this viewed.110. entered into both conflictual and consensual relationships with one another.DOWN MEMORY LANE 683 "material relations of the household. The sample memoirs used in this article are selected on the basis of commonality of themes portrayed in them with regard to servants. and the works reveal the rich matrix of the colonial households. and second. Founded by Raja Rammohun Roy in 1829 this religious group was crucial in shaping Indian reformist and nationalist women's causes. not only several generations of families lived in a common household. the hegemonic of servants in subject."15 Instead of looking at the family as a single unit representing unified interests we will consider the family as a locus of struggle where each member with different roles.198 on Sat.

Furthermore. The choice of Brahmo writers is not deliberate but rather a matter of availability. Bhadramahila. Kayasthas. Also."21 The members of this class.53. producing some of the best known intellectuals. Calcutta and its hinterland became the focus of British economic interests in structure also changed the country. in spite of domestics. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .110. and it was probably because of their tremendous dependence that of members of the Tagore families are replete with memories of recollections with of domestics by the Tagores servants. Bengali culture was shaped in unique ways compared to other Indian cities. Similarly. These changes in the political-economic the social landscape. before proceeding any further a few words about the Bengali middle class (bhadraloklbhadramahila) and the servants are in order. madhyabitto) who came from predominantly upper caste Hindus (Brahmans. many ofthe other writers cited in this paper also belonged to the Brahmo community. Long before any other social groups had set- This content downloaded from 175. the most famous of them being the Nobel-laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. The rich documentation growing up accounts for my heavy emphasis on them despite their exclusive socio-economic status."22 The Bengali bhadralok. Bhadralok.198 on Sat. Given their distinct socio-cultural status the Brahmos produced a large number of intellectuals who engaged in the exercise of recording their life's experiences. transcend the caste barriers in real life. as a breakaway group from the Hindus. as a renegade community the Brahmo men in many instances had to break away from their ancestral families and establish their own households. and Vaidyas) and called themselves bhadralok. In those situations wives of those men had to shoulder the entire responsibility of household work as opposed to Hindu joint families where there would be several women including destitute relatives and widows who performed different kinds of domestic work. the Brahmos did not in fact. artists. Once the British had monopolized their control over foreign trade and land revenue in Bengal by the second half of the eighteenth century. The Tagores. It is thus plausible that Brahmo families needed more hired domestic workers than the Hindus or the Muslims.e. bureaucrats. like other affluent households of contemporaneous Calcutta. and civil servants. the other two dominant religious communities of colonial Bengal. i. and litterateurs of colonial Bengal. upwardly mobile. were vital for the maintenance of the British rule and they claimed to represent "the native public opinion. The first four decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the growth of a newly rising educated middle-class (madhyasreni.684 journal of social history spring 2004 family not only gave leadership to the religious movement of the Brahmos but were also extremely powerful socially and culturally. maintained a retinue of servants. one may surmise that the Brahmos.20 However. cultural community of professionals. were less rigid with caste distinctions and adopted a more liberal policy in employment accounts indicate. But as some of the contemporaneous of breaking away from the orthodoxy of Hinduism. the "respectable middle-class" consisted of two or the main groups: the abhijat (aristocratic) and the grihastha (middle-class) madhyabitto sreni (middling class). and the Domestic Workers As Bengal harbored the seat of the British imperial capital in the city of Calcutta until 1911. literally meaning "respectable men" or "gentlemen. comprising a heterogeneous.

mothers. and sisters ofthe urban professionals.26 The bhadralok almost always had a link with land in the form of petty landholding thus constituting a "landed literati far more numerous than similar groups in other parts ofthe country.53. the abhijat bhadralok (aristocratic middle class). often referred to as the "new woman. after the anti-Partition Swadeshi movement of 1905. embodied the helpmate role ofthe Victorian lady with the reinvented notion of chaste. women themselves began to influence and change the development of their bhadramahila stereotype. They harmonized what they valued in traditional society with what they consid? ered worthy of imitation in the ways of Victorian women. daughters." was the female counterpart of the bhadralok representing the wives.110. Hindu woman. This division split the society into the "cultured" upper and middling classes and the "uncultured" poor. to the writings of manuals against the injustices and superstitions of traditional society.32 of the The tying up of women into the process of cultural homogenization urban Bengali middle class was also a reflection of the new market relations and the erosion of caste ties in the face of urbanization. Changing socio-economic factors called for the creation of a common bhadralok culture based on some This content downloaded from 175. as de? fined by the middle-class males."27 To the rising political class ofthe nineteenth century madhyabitto or sikkhita sampradaya had more appeal than the term bhadralok. While the etymological origin ofthe term bhadra meaning "polite" and suggesting "the chief person in the village" (mukhya and mandal) was very old. zamindars and the top administrators often representing the aristocracy." consisting of opulent merchants. which ranged from reading Hindu scriptures to acquiring spiritual knowledge. sacrificing. who aspired to have the same life-style as the upper two groups. while the term madhyabitto denoting the "middling sort" was used only from the 1860s. bankers.25 The self-image of the bhadralok as member of a new political class was not primarily associated with capitalist endeavors but shaped by the aspiration to be a member of the "educated middle-class"? madhyabitto or sikkhita sampraday who distinguished themselves both from the and bapreexisting aristocracy of dewans (financial ministers or accountants) nians (tradesmen) who were at the apex of the early colonial society and from the toiling masses from towns and countryside who tended to be lower castes or Muslims. They enthusiastically responded to the spread of education to pursue their own interests. and influence by working as intermediaries with the British. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . social status. did not appear before 1799. first percentury. It was in the twentieth century.24 The abhijat bhadralok were followed by the middle-income group madhyabitto (middle middle class). that the term bhadralok regularly occurred in the writings Civil Servants and in the official records. itorhk or chhotolok. or more precisely.23 manently settled in the city in the second half of the eighteenth They rapidly acquired huge wealth.DOWN MEMORY LANE 685 tled in Calcutta.198 on Sat. describing a social group. The ideal bhadramahila. and at the lowest rung were the poor bhadralok (daridra athacha bhadralok). also described in English as "comprador-rajas.31 But within the limits of the wife-mother role envisioned by the males. The word bhadralok denoting the higher order of Bengali society gained currency in the 1830s.30 Bhadramahila or the "respectable" lady. the conjoined word bhadralok.28 The ideas of of the Anglo-Indian the nascent bhadralok fostered a worldview that divided the Bengali society into two distinct cultural communities: bhadralok and a-bhadralok.

the latter indicating a wide range of people This content downloaded from 175. By 1931.36 During the same time domestic service accounted for over 70 per cent of women workers in modern services in Bengal. The new model ofthe bhadramahila was thus conceived by imposing a new kind of segregation on women. But the growth of an urban wage economy in colonial Bengal along with the cultural factors contributed to an unprecedented rise of domestic servants in Bengal. and cultural center of the Bengal presidency. By the last quarter ofthe nineteenth century the majority ofthe once-prosperous artisans and craftsmen were reduced barbers and washermen. Their share in total employment fell from 29 percent in 1901 to 17 per cent in 1911 and 12 per cent in 1921. water-carriers. The genealogy of domestic service in India can be traced as far back as the Vedic times.53. who had flocked to the city with gleaming prospect of success in the eighteenth century. barbers. vulgar. Cal? cutta attracted from the countryside a diverse population made up of both the rich and the poor. the servants and to the ranks of lowliest laborers?the scavengers. combining the manifold functions of a nurturing and sacrificing mother and a dutiful wife. when women were pushed out of their industrial employment domestic service became the only non-agricultural occupation for them.33 In spite of the ideological distancing the channels for continuity between middle. cooks. But the traditionally skilled craftsmen and artisans. According to Samsad English Bengali Dictionary (1981) the word servant in Bengali translates into chakar. and sexually promiscuous. maintained through the social ceremonies and festivals. As the imperial capital until 1911 and the main administrative. village and kul (lineage) connec? tions. gardeners.686 journal of social history spring 2004 degree of class polarization that required sharper differentiation at the cultural level. received a hard blow by the middle ofthe nine? teenth.34 As the role ofthe housewife became more and more elaborate and complicated. also served the lower orders of Bengali so? ciety consisting of traditional artisans and craftsmen who migrated to the city from neighboring villages in search of employment. Employment of domestics in urban households was not a unique phenomenon of colonial Bengal.37 The steady marginalization of both male and female urban workers from their original caste-based trades and their absorption into the domestic laborforce closely related to the rising middle-class culture in Bengal. commerciai. there was an increase in the employment of domestic servants in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. and others. The Census of 1876 lists a wide range of domestic servants such as khansamas or butlers.35 The changed economic scenario also had very different consequences for lower-class working women. who resided mostly outside the city limits. vritya. or karmachari.and lower-class culture and relationships were the domestic service." also from the majority of "common" working women whom the elites described as loud. the commerciai environment of the urban economy.38 The term servant in Indian parlance has a very wide implication. being unable to compete with the European tradesmen who poured into the metropolis to satisfy the rich clientele. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . or more commonly through the labor ofthe women ofthe economically lower groups. Middle-class women's identity now came to be defined by distinguishing them from not only the "westernized women" of the but "wealthy parvenu families making a fortune out of imperial connections. coarse. Just as expanded opportunities offered by colonial administra? tion fostered a mobile group of English educated professionals.110.198 on Sat.

Barrister-at-law and Advocate of the High Court of Calcutta wrote: [t]he word "servant.110. and the ayahs (waiting women) serv? ing in regular households. his "master.44 How important servants were in Bengali middle-class lives can be gieaned from the statement of the manual writer Ambikacharan Gupta who asserted that "[T]here is no way a bhadralok can function for a moment This content downloaded from 175. Samsad English Bengali Dictionary (1981) also defines Kreetodash as a person held as property. and ardali (orderlies). The most thoroughgoing discussion on behavior with servants was evident in the advice manuals. and maintenance of the household or its members fell within the wide variety of servants." in its ordinary colloquial sense. is usually understood to mean servants of the domestic or menial class. who were constitutive washermen/women. short stories. Unlike the deflnitions of slave or the institution of slavery that have been belabored in the early British colonial records with respect to India and the Atlantic and their somewhat uncritical acceptance by most ofthe South Asian scholars there is little evidence of struggle with the meaning ofthe term "servant" in Indian history. durwans (gatekeepers). tailors.40 The British. however. and carefully distanced her from women of other social classes. both male and female.42 In spite of the neat categorization representing the hierarchical division of labor. upkeep. a new genre of the nineteenth century Bengali print-culture. in their zeal to codify laws on masters and servants tried to arrive at a more precise definition of servant in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. chaprashis (office messenger).53. destitute female relatives. plays.198 on Sat." whether these services are rendered gratuitously or for a stipulated consideration_4 In colonial Bengal any person or household dependent engaged in domestic or manufacturing tasks for running. Therefore. My paper is primarily concerned with those "outside" members not apparently connected by biological ties with the empioyers but who performed domestic chores within the colonial households.39 Servants have also been differentiated from the category of slaves translated in Bengali as kreetodash. It does not pay particular attention to such groups as of milkmen. in real life the services of domestic workers often extended into and overlapped with each other. the large body of domestic workers. etc. and satires of colonial Bengal but the Bengali middle class assumed a different tone while writing about them. who served the civil servants in government offices to the sarkars (financial accountants). as a helpless victim of any dominating influence. which charted out a newly envisioned code of re? formed domesticity for the bhadramahila. widowed sisters. In A Handy Book on the Law of Master and Servant (1870) Gideon Colquhoun Sconce. Written by wide-ranging members of the middle class the manuals devoted an entire chapter or section instructing women on how to behave with servants.43 From the later decades of the nineteenth century domestics. dai-ees (wetnurses). but in its legal acceptance it includes any one who is bound to perform services.DOWN MEMORY LANE 687 who serve in some form or another. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and orphaned children from larger kin networks often substituted for the labor of domestic servants. not only appeared frequently in novels. on the authority and for the benefit of another. gardeners. farces. the category of servants included a vast range of employees starting from peons (a footman). In colonial families while it was customary for women ofall ages and statuses to undertake a variety of housework. malis (gardeners).

despite the expioitative aspects and the power differentials between the employers and the domestics. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .. But the personal narratives under consideration reveal a subdued treatment of such themes and by dwelling more on the strengths ofthe domestic workers the employers engaged in a critique of themselves. affection. the personal narratives came closest to convey ing a semblance of reality in representing the employer-servant relationship. Employment of domestics.198 on Sat. and even denounce the new housewives. became an important criterion to distinguish and counterpose the "modern" woman against her supposedly thrifty. Women who used paid domestic help were viewed as victims of supposed Westernization that bred laziness among them and prompted them to defy their economic and moral stan? dards. While the steady stream of references to domestics and the prescription of maternalistic behavior towards them implied the acceptability of hiring do? mestic help in colonial Bengal. plays. that projected the promiscuity. however. Women having servants to help in household chores became one of described it as a negative influ? the gravest concerns ofthe Bengali writers?they ence of modern education that the West had brought about. Surprisingly. While the manuals displayed the bhadraloVs concern with servants on the ideological level and short stories. novels. Obfuscating the boundaries and hierarchies laid out in the manuals.53. servants without a servant. the texts established the rank of the new housewife in the family hierarchy. and satires were all works of creative imaginations. the domestic workers in this genre were mostly portrayed in a positive light. often coming from the same authors. and foibles of the domestic work? ers. memoirs. The manual writers thus frequently used the servants to situate. dishonesty. not to deny the negative vein in middle class writings. hard-working. explain.. appeared in the pages ofthe au? tobiographies. The sources under scrutiny underscore instances of nurture and care-giving by female workers but there are many other instances of intimacies.47 This is. and reminiscences of the Bengali middle-class. therefore. the personal narratives adopted a more intimate tone and depicted how the discursive practices were translated into day to day living. The narratives thus capture not but they also display only the disjuncture between ideology and lived-experience the ambivalence and ambiguity in middle class cultural patterns and practices.110. A dominant trope that runs through many of the personal narratives is the portrayal of domestic workers as both authoritative figures and as hapless actors who called for sympathy and attention from their employers. without servants it is impossible to maintain one's dignity"45 The extensive code of behavior towards servants that the ideologues laid down for Bengali women urged the new woman to adopt a maternal attitude towards the domestics and to treat them as family members (parivarbarga). and care that developed between male domestic workers and their employers or be- This content downloaded from 175. traditional counterpart.688 journal of social history spring 2004 one needs servants to perform domestic chores. The writers carefully distanced the housewives from the servants by spelling out the household division of labor and maintaining distinctions in the nature of work to be performed by these two individual members.46 The most active images of servants. the employment of servants in new middle-class homes was often scrutinized with suspicion by the same ideologues writing the manuals. are necessary even to travel around. weaknesses. laziness. By invoking servants as subaltern to the new woman. however.

27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Combined with this image is the feeling of gratitude and obligation resulting in a sense of guilt and loss.. at the end of day.. We have not been able to give them anything beyond two pieces of clothing and napkins every year. they lit the evening lamps.48 While discussion of such areas of intimacies are beyond the scope of this paper it is important not to conflate care-giving with feminine labor. thus stops suddenly before concluding her reminiscences of the "Women's World" (Me^emahal) as it existed in early Calcutta. At the up_They crack of dawn they brought home vessels full of water." the old domestics who served her family. The presence of servants.198 on Sat. after neatly arranging the house like a pearl.49 Kalyani Datta. The effort was to immortalize the domestics through their writings. and put us to sleep by soothing our cries.. By writing about the servants the Bengali middle class acknowledged those under-privileged people who crowded their world. and loyal servants as permanent members of the Bengali households. however marginal and sketchy. But some writers have added a twist to their memories of servants. All at once the swelling memories of "Kunjadada" twentieth-century and "Bejodidi. a member of the current generation of the Bengali middle class and an eminent woman writer known for her deep insights into Bengali domestic culture.53. They infused their intimate memories with a sense of indebtedness to the domestic workers that they could not overcome.51 As premeditated or deliberate as Kalyani Datta's style of presentation is. boxes full of betel and tobacco leaves and hands and feet eaten with chilblain. Even when they adopted a critical attitude towards servants and complained of their theft or indolence the Memory Lane: Reminiscences of Domestic Workers in Bengali Writ? This content downloaded from 175.50 In thinking of them she writes: [I]t was they [the servants] who spent all their lives in our families and brought us fed us. it who fadomestic workers to those tribute to her indicates attempt pay surely cilitated Bengali middle-class life. faithful. overwhelm her with nostalgia. The regret of the authors for giving very little in return for the services rendered by their domestic workers was often associated with a sense of loss and a changing time. There is a constant effort on the part ofthe writers to portray the employer-servant relationship as one of patronage and a legacy ofthe pre-colonial feudal aristocratic culture that nurtured such relation? ships.DOWN MEMORY LANE 689 tween same-age workers who often tumed into playmates of the young writers. Alluding to an idealist 'feudal' lineage the writers agonized over the fact that servants who were considered a part of the extended family in the past were fast becoming outsiders in an altered urban scenario. at daybreak. Down ings As Bengali personal narratives mostly come from members of the well-to-do middle class their writings abound with memories of growing up in the company of servants. In recompense the authors celebrated the authority and power that the servants wielded over children and the younger members of the family. bathed us.110.52 Persistent in these writings is the image of hard working. in these writings also makes it clear that servants formed an integral part of urban families in the early half of the twentieth century. they shopped and cooked.

The discussion of employer-servant relationships in a positivistic mode can hence be read as a site for the self-fashioning of the Ben? gali middle class."56 The concern with servants in these narratives. an auto-critique. and problematized by the colonial govern? ment and by themselves.55 While Bengali autobiographers shaped and reshaped their memories of growing up with servants through their experiences as adults. Dukhan behara (bearer) bringing water from the river Ganga. in recognizing that "childhood" is appearing "through the memory of the adult" that I propose to read the autobiographical writings ofthe Bengali middle class. It is in this light of analy? sis. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . He remembers the maid Pyaridasi carrying a basket full of vegetables from the market. I contend that there are deeper reasons embedded in the dialectics of writing autobiographies and memoirs at a particular historical conjuncture. and an "en? what is evident in this genre is a kind of "self-subjectivization" gaged assessment of the morality of practices. these writings tended to downplay the domination and highlight the affection." While the "inner self" ofthe Bengali middle class did not pour itself out in these narratives there was still an element of "confession" involved in the writings. novelist. They were beaten and mistreated and even subjected to severe punishment by the servants from time to time.690 journal of social history spring 2004 critique did not take the form of an unqualified blame.58 Rabindranath writes that he grew up in a crowded house where nobody even cared how many members were related by blood. The children's "sedition" against servants?their only weapon of protest?was crythat the servants earnestly hated. to reflect on their present state of being than a "selfless" act of immortalizing servants through paying homage. The Bengali middle class's act of remembering domestics was perhaps prompted more by their desire to critique themselves.57 Growing Up With Domestics: In version of Hierarchy: Perspectives of Boys One ofthe earliest memories recalled by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). and musician. a weaver woman selling cloth.53. Overall. Rather they adopted a patronizing tone tempered with good humor and love. discussed. to project a corrected self image. both in their orthodox and reformist molds.59 From Rabindranath's sarcastic recounting of the tension between the "pow? erful" servants and the "seditious" children of the Tagore family it would seem that although he was quite critical of the care-giving servants he could not deny This content downloaded from 175. The air was filled with the noise and clatter of servants and maids from every quarter.54 Throughout the nineteenth century the middle class Indian males representing the upper class patriarchy. projects a critical reflection on their own selves. is that of the "servocracy" or the Vrityarajak Tantra that flourished in his household. So the caregivers would ing aloud?something drown their weeping by holding their mouth inside huge earthen water-vessels. had been thoroughly scrutinized.110. to conform to their newly evolved ideas of modernity and progress.53 Personal narratives emerged as a strikingly new genre in colonial Bengali litera? ture and they acted as a chief instrument for the articulation ofthe "modern self.198 on Sat. the famous Nobel-laureate poet. like other colonial discourses. Yet if the middle-class memories of the servants from their youth seem too simplistic. but the memory that lingers with him is the story of subordination and intimidation that he and his siblings suffered at the hands of the servants.

The storm had carried him away and replaced him by a giant. She would say. Sarala Debi Chaudhuthe celebrated freedom fighter and daughter of the writer rani (1872-1945). In his autobiography.62 Not surprisingly. she told stories. "My maid is beaten!" People ran to her help. His other writings capture the more intimate. Suddenly he saw his maid being pushed and bumped against the wall. Abanindranath screamed. He remembers an angry exchange between his "black" Padmadasi and the "fair.. conjured up a story in his defense. alias Pramod Kumar. had died. and left us darkness_She a long time back. like many other wealthy fam? ilies of Calcutta.53. given the extreme importance of maids in the aristocratic families of Calcutta. long-suffering servant from the perspective of a remorse-stricken employer.110. worked. Prankumar. She started spreading words that the quiet child.63 But as he grew up his untamed activities became a concern for his parents. notes at the very beginning of her autobiography that children in the Tagore family. The bond that children developed with domestic servants resulted from the close association they had with them from their birth. fat" maid named Rosho. Blood ran down her dark forehead. I could see that distant woman who had no blood connection with me?sitting on the other side of fifty-five years she was pouring milk in and out of the tumbler for 61 me . The point can be well illustrated by the accounts of Pramodkumar Chattopada well-known painter and travel writer. faithful.. were "entrusted to the care of a suckling mid-wife" soon after they were born." "gentlehearted" Padmadasi fills him with intense nostalgia. remembers how a maid called Lakshmi. He waited and longed for her every day but the maid did not come back. The doctor came and bandaged her wound. recalls his maid is very different from that of his uncle. In fact. who was born at the time of the storm.DOWN MEMORY LANE 691 their presence in his life.198 on Sat.60 The way Abanindranath the artist-cum-writer and ne? Tagore (1871-1951). heartfelt. frail This content downloaded from 175. quarreled. she was furious with rage. Pramodkumar noted that as a child he was an "object" of much sympathy and compassion because of his frail health. Perhaps nobody in the whole world except me has any impression left of her? Perhaps that is why while narrating my own story. His earliest memories of growing up in the care of "dark-skinned. The first "incident" that left an indelible impression on child Abanindranath also centers on his maid. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . That was the last time he saw her. who brought him up. through his famous poem Puraton Vritya (The Old Servant) he immortalized in the minds of the Bengali literate population the image of the loyal. Rabindranath's sister. Swarnakumari Debi. As a reward for bringing me up she received a thick gold chain and a blood spot on her head. "Was he a human being? He was a giant. hyay (1885-1979). Have you seen somebody like him?" The effort by the maid to make up such a tale is indicative of her willingness to defy the image of the little boy as a quiet. her hair was disheveled. phew of Rabindranath. He writes: Leaving her own home in some village came my Padmadasi who was as black as went back angry. they often acquired a position from which they could not only protect a child but could also at times challenge the authority of their empioyers. and authoritative relationships he had with some domestic workers in his later life.

He would sleep with Rukmini and not with his mother. Prankumar too underscored the tension that existed between his father and his maid Rukmini. a film-maker. He never replied to the scoiding of my mother . 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . We could tell from a distance that Dukhi Maharaj was coming. grew up in the company of servants. he would protest against the "injustices" of his father's "unfair" regime. sincerely wanted that when Pramodkumar came of age. Most ofthe time those memories are recorded by capturing the contradictory experiences of the boy (author) and his parents or other adults. Like Abanindranath and Sarala Debi. The quiet Dukhi turned garrulous as he narrated the tales of his "homeland" to those young boys. In the evening when Dukhi was done with his day's chores. between two and four-five years. The statement thereby automatically excludes the adult members from the "onus" of remem? bering those servants under whose supervision the latter worked.. about whom Prankumar writes: While I was a young child.65 A significant moment in the narrative of childhood by male autobiographers is that ofthe separation ofthe old domestics from their families. Despite the many differences such as caste. an old maid called Rukmini left an indelible impression in my mind-She brought me up as a child and put up with all my tantrums. and an important member ofthe Brahmo community. Their claim to power was no had an affectionate heart. He dragged his feet while walking at night. writer. this is how Premankur presents him before us: The great man (mahapurush) who was accursed to come and work in our family was Dukhia. Rukmini.198 on Sat.110.53. The child's recollection of a caring and nurturing servant was interspersed with that of an angry or disgruntled parent towards the same servants. she was my greatest friend. as we witnessed in the case of Prankumar. which Dukhi would cite as the main reason for not accepting food from his This content downloaded from 175. she frequently quarreled with my father. Maids of that time were considered a part of the family. and my less than that of other family-members-She love towards her was also very deep. a strong powerful woman. Premankur and his brother would often gather around him below the stairs to listen to his stories.692 journal of social history spring 2004 child. I have never ever seen until today such a lively embodiment of sorrow. 68 Premankur Atarthi records how Dukhi lived below the stairs in their house with his sole possession of a "bundle" and a portable clay oven on which he cooked his own food. and journalist. Poor him (Dukhia) was old and suffered from night-blindness. We hear from Abanindranath how perhaps he "alone" in the world remembers his maid Padmadasi. Because of that reason. The most heart-wrenching account of a servant's parting and the different reaction of the children and the mother come from the vivid recollections of Premankur Atarthi (1890-1964). Prankumar too. The fact that Prankumar cherished this memory signifies that it was a well-circulated story in the family. At night she would give a lot of advice to Prankumar. Extolling their old servant Dukhia to the status of a great man (Mahapurush). We called him Dukhi.. next to my grandfather and grandmother. She also saved me several times from the rage of my father. In that house. More striking is the story of Rukmini.

DOWN MEMORY LANE 693 empioyer's kitchen. What literature are the shared moments of emerge from the male autobiographical unity and conflict transcending caste and class lines between the child-selves of the authors and the domestic workers. that his quiet "self" became excited and garrulous. As I missed him. nourished. They inquired from their mother about the cause of his dismissal.69 These excerpts from Atarthi are susceptible to several possible readings. readily tells us the state of his unhappy physical and mental being and his humbling status in the empioyers' household. Dukhi was a great friend of the Atarthi brothers.53. the authors in most cases relegated themselves to a "junior" posi? tion and assigned to the servants a position of power. disappearing Dukhia-image still shines brightly in my mind. Atarthi automatically inverts the stereotypic order of empioyers and servants. could not understand their mother's logic. The brutal treatment of children by the domestic workers. Premankur Atarthi distinctly recalls the day when he and his brother. there was no end to the tears I shed in my bed at night. attest to the temporary powerlessness of children in the colonial families. or abused by the domestic workers. Nobody but an unfortunate boy has the power to understand this sorrow. a "living embodiment sorrow. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . or even deprived. It was during those "happy moments" when Dukhia narrated the stories of his "country" people. It is interesting to see how the authors projected that powerlessness by inverting the hierarchical relationship between the empioyers and their servants. of his own family members. There was nobody at home or in my school with whom I could share this burden. however. retained his autonomous identity by refusing to have food from a Bengali kitchen. taken care of. through his insistence on maintaining his caste-ethnic boundaries. after returning from school. The boys shared countless "private" thoughts with this faithful old servant." dwelling below the stairs and subsisting on the simplest possible diet. such as the incident recorded by Rabindranath Tagore as well as their parting moments from the empioyer's family much to the dislike of the child-selves ofthe authors. Dukhia. The two children. Even more striking is how. By raising Dukhia to the status of a "great man" accursed to be a poor domestic. of The description of the servant as a poor old man. In these depictions of interac? tions with servants in their formative years the male writers portray themselves as powerless and at the mercy of their servant-caretakers. It is plausible that this tendency in memoir literature reflects the corrective mode of the middle class This content downloaded from 175. mistreated. While pleading with Dukhi not to leave them. unable to make the connection between old age and hard work. Authors recalled vividly memories in which they were loved. The personal narratives of the Bengali middle class reveal that living and interacting with servants was not only a matter of the writers' experiential re? ality but was also very central to their construction of home and family. are the moments when Dukhia asserted his own subjectivity. learnt that Dukhia had lost his job with their family.110. More important. Their mother replied that old age was preventing Dukhi from doing hard work. Premankur the morning when noticed Dukhi's eyes glistening with tears. despite his subordinated existence.198 on Sat. Remembering Dukhi left Premankur Atarthi records his last memories: That bent. In "imagining" and recreating their childhood experiences with servants.

The typical portrayal of the domestic workers by the bhadralok employers was made possible by the latter's power "to observe. perhaps did not feel the urgency to talk about the servants as an exploited group.198 on Sat. deeply imbued with This content downloaded from 175. By acknowledging the author? ity servants wielded over middle-class children and by remembering them in writing the authors tried to amend the wrongs and sanitize the highly stratified. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . were not recorded in the writings of the earlier generation.53. Women's writings. Women's reconstruction of with encounters servants not for their own and past only speaks agency subjec? tivity but also gives an altogether different dynamic to domestic-mistress power relationship. By emphasizing the differences in attitude and behavior between adults and children they convey the neglect and inhumane treatment of servants in middle-class homes. were torn by their troubled selves and felt the inner pressure to represent the domestics in their writings. even when present. The younger generations. to pronounce. these "celebratory" representations of the domestics by male writ? ers are further complicated by women's accounts. The sweeping tone of gratitude and indebtedness overcame the elements of force and dominance that lurked behind the unequal treatment of the domestics by the older generations.72 Strongly possessed by a desire to communicate. The latter. Inherent in these excerpts are not only the self-exculpatory motives but also the persua? sive elements of domination deliberately subduing the coercive aspects of an mode infused with the humanizing consciousness of bourgeois civility appears strongly when the autobiographers record "that" defin? ing moment of parting with the domestic workers. hierarchical relationship between employers and servants in real life. we thus need to take a closer look at the accounts left by Bengali women. to learn.70 The same self-critical There is a distinct difference in the way Bengali men and women recalled memories of servants. on the other hand. the modality of expression for women was different from that of men.694 journal of social history spring 2004 through which it tried to vindicate its self-image. and to establish a dialogue with their readers. and to gaze on other human beings as subject" and to represent them in writing. Strikingly.110. The sentiments and emotions expressed through their writings and the subtle claim that those ele? ments were somehow missing in the older age group indicate the generational gap between the authors and their predecessors. Yet the process was not that simple. thriving in a differ? ent socio-cultural climate of a dying feudal aristocracy and possessing a different sensibility to class and caste distinctions. the authors highlighting chose the moments of compliance and collaboration by servants thereby underscoring the persuasive aspect of domination. Since personal narratives as a literary genre flourished only in the late colonial period. To situate the domestics in the larger hierarchy ofthe colonial Ben? gali families.71 Instead of the tension or focusing on the conflict and hostility. They recount the sharply differing reactions of the older members of the family and the child-self of the writers to the departure of the domestic workers. An Excursion into the Women's in Colonial Bengali Families World: Power and Authority of Domestics unequal relationship. many of those feelings.

and respectability. babies left their mothers and were entrusted to the care of a suckling mid-wife75 and a supervising maid. On the other hand she refers to Shankari. the first Rassundari Debi's (1809-1899) written be to by an Indian woman in the nineteenth full-length autobiography This content downloaded from 175. for her literary well known and Brahmo caste aristocratic quite family.DOWN MEMORY LANE 695 emotions and feelings.110. account of her own life AmarJiban. 81 [emphasis mine] While the tone of Prasannamayi's recollection is rather euphemistic mixed with a nostalgia for the "golden past. Five to six maids and two to three servants helped in the kitchen.198 on Sat. babies were nursed and looked after by a wetnurse.76 In a tone of despair Sarala Debi further recounts that immediately after they were born they "lost any direct touch" with their mothers.73 Thus women's writings under our consideration focus on the home and offer a different perspective on the interaction between servants and their employers. Sarala Debi also tells us that Mongola. For example. as a storehouse of fairy tales. assigned to the care of her cousin Usha. a member of the Tagore family. Soon after they were born. the father and the son . In my case it was no exception either. narrates the role of domestic workers is very different from that of her male counterparts. the tone and attitude with which Sarala Debi Chaudhurani. "Like an inaccessible queen she stayed away from us. she slipped into her cousin Usha's bed and listened to the fairy tales narrated by Shankari. But nobody felt insulted or got angry that time the relationship between the servant and the master with that_At was like that ofthe master (guru) and the disciple. maintaining family honor. women's writings of late colonial Bengal their memories with the are more incisive. But it was the daily responsibility of the housewife to look after the meals of sons-daughters. critical.." we can infer from her writing that the young brides in the traditional family were not only in the lowest rungs ofthe family hierarchy. I never knew what mother's affection was. The children did not have any further relationship with the mother. and frank in documenting domestics. Our maid's lap became our mother's lap.79 born into an up? Consider the case of Prasannamayi Debi (1857-1939). the maid assigned to her care. Instead of the mother's milk.74 In contrast to men's recollections which consciously ascribed power to servants. Prasannamayi noted achievements.80 that there was no dearth of domestic workers in the large wealthy families. sons-in law. per In her writings about the "golden" past. used to slap her every now and then. nephews-nieces. but were also subjects of "negative" discrimination in the name of fulfilling responsibility. Describing the order in which meals were served she mentioned that new brides would always eat after every one else had eaten. This is how she begins her autobiography: A very common practice among the wealthy families of that time was also prevalent in Jorasanko.. brothers-in law. She wrote: "Even the servants used to eat before the (junior) brides ate. other relatives including servants. if child Sarala could escape the strict vigilance of her own maid Mongola.77 She wrote. were pitched in domestic surroundings and were often written in a colloquial language. mother never kissed me or pat me gently with her hand"78 Dwelling heavily on both the "care" and "mistreatment" she received from her maids. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .53. the king and the subject. Many a night.

To return to our discussion on the power of servants one can also draw insight from a common custom practiced in the Tagore family of Jorasanko. In men's accounts. Women had to maneuver their way through an often oppressive and unfavorable social system that rarely addressed women's needs and wellbeing. we heard of ser? vants' power only with respect to young children. writes in her memoir that the maids in the Tagore family enjoyed so much power that they went to select the would-be This content downloaded from 175. The comparison with a "tyrant" sister-in-law suggests that old maids often assumed an abusive position with respect to newcomer brides. She wrote: Women in those days were hard working and efficient and they did all the domestic chores themselves-Some families had one or two maids who were entrusted with the responsibility of child-care.84 The role and power of maids appear most poignantly in Hemantakumari Sen of women's lives in the past.85 We hear from Hemantakumari a story of an intimidated and suppressed young bride. But a reading of other contemporaneous sources such as the household manuals reveals that the socio-economic distinc? tion and hierarchy between the mistress and the servants were carefully laid out by the colonial middle class who often started out by saying that the "mistress is not the maid of the house. She mentions how as a young bride she had to cook twice daily for twenty to twenty-five servants who worked for her in-laws' household. Rabindranath's niece. It is also important to bear in mind that at the time Rassundari Debi was writing servants were yet to appear as cooks in conventional Bengali households.82 What is evi? dent is the fact that in colonial Bengali families young daughters-in-law had very few arrangements in their favor. also presents us with a similar picture.696 journal of social history spring 2004 century. adjusting to an unfavorable social environment and reckoning even with those who were below her sociaily and economically. The brides secretly put up with this torture due to their stupidity. Some ofthe maids were quiet and affectionate. They were hired mainly for outdoor and heavy-duty activities. The housewives were afraid ofthe maids just as they were of their sisters-in-law (emphasis mine).53. The household had nine maids. in this scenario. there obviously was a blurring of physical responsibilities between the mistress and the maid in families of colonial Bengal. But women. The maid. was a representative ofa powerful member ofthe in-laws' family who could command authority over a young and "powerless" daughter-in-law. therefore."83 Although the ideological distinction was clear. even as young adults. But some were querulous.110. took care of not only her twelve children but also performed all other domestic responsibilities.198 on Sat. While enumerating the Gupta's reminiscences women of the earlier generation displayed she spoke about that many qualities their tolerance and how they put up with myriad relatives living in the same household. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Indira DebiChaudhurani. Many will be surprised to hear about the tolerance of the housewives of that time. They drove young brides crazy by torturing them in many ways. One may also argue in this context that the line between the servant and the employer-mistress was not very clear in terms of performing household chores in colonial homes. Rassundari. But they all per? formed outdoor chores. had to abide by the power of old and authoritative servants.

90 If you ever forget something. Finally. The incident. kind. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Maids did not play a significant role in the selection of his bride. is rather an expression of a servant's assertiveness in the life of his mistress. A classic example of this nurturing maid can be gleaned from Giribala Debi's Raibari. Kamini's mother as an old retainer shared an insider's knowledge of the zamindari household and had a closer association with the powerful female members.DOWN MEMORY LANE 697 brides. receives her affection and care and learns from her how to work her way through the complicated familial power networks.88 readily becomes her confidant and mentor. They often acted as protectors.110. But in the ultimate analysis Kamini's mother and Binu were both "powerless" and subordinate members who had very little control over the actual resources and functioning of the family. But why then did the maid take pity on this young. In the preface to her book on Bengali vegetarian cooking Renuka Debi Chaudhurani records how and from whom she learnt numerous recipes. Kamini's mother. chant Guru's name. provides an incomplete picture.198 on Sat. chant my name."91 Such advice implied that by summoning the cook in her mind the mistress could overcome her difficulties in cooking. Noora Baburchi used to assure Renuka by saying. The distance that Giribala Debi maintained in representing Kamini's mother allowed her not to transcend the prescribed parameters between the mistress and the maid. "powerless" member of her empioyers? Kamini's mother came to Binu's assistance not just because of her compassion for the helpless bride but perhaps because of their mutual subordination in a highly stratified household. affectionate. The nurturing relationship that developed between the maid and the bride attests to the sharing ofa common world that glossed over caste-class boundaries and seemed to evade the superior-subordinate relationship of the mistress and the maid. Binu. far removed from the experiences of sharing a common world between the mistress and the maid. stifling environment. The only exception was in the case of the renowned poet Rabindranath. an autobiographical novel. hailing from Binu's ancestral village.89 One of her mentors was a Muslim cook called Noora Baburchi who worked for her family. Behind this simple statement lurked This content downloaded from 175. "Don't be afraid. messengers and intermediaries to the new and young brides. Published as a serialized novel Raibari revolves around the intense personal memories of a young bride trying to cope with the harsh environment of a highly restrictive landowning in-laws' family. The assistance that Kamini's mother rendered to Binu proceeded furtively beyond the gaze of her vigilant empioyers. There are instances of male and female domestics who were faithful. aides. As an experienced adult she taught Binu how to maneuver through difficult domestic situations. it will be worth considering a small incident in the life of a woman that has more symbolic import than real life significance.53. however. The power of the maid as displayed in Raibari in no way inverted the hierarchical mistress-servant relationship.86 To dwell only on the authoritative power of the women domestics. and sympathetic to young housewives. The fellow feeling might also have emanated from sharing the common ancestral lineage of the same village. which in the guise of fiction recounted the woman-writer's own life-story.87 In the protagonist young Binu's travails with her in-laws. Mother. comes to her rescue and teaches her to adapt to the Kamini's mother. the old maid. addressing the old maid as aunt.

The difference perhaps can be explained by the fact that given the custom of the age women entered into wedlock at a very early stage in their lives.198 on Sat. Ironically however. women were forced to enter into a more responsible "adult" position at a relatively early stage in their lives.698 journal of social history spring 2004 a tremendous sense of the cook's authority verging on audaciousness. A journey into the women's world thus offers a distinct contrast with men in the tonality and emotions by which domestic workers were represented. A closer look at men's and women's writings also gives us insights into their different status in Bengali families. multi-generational.53. Why were women more openly incisive and critical while men were more diplomatic and careful in recording experiences with servants? Any possible explanation forces us to recognize the differential nature of child? hood experiences between men and women.110. women could perhaps assail them publicly. It also displayed mean pronouncement the cook's confidence in the respect he commanded from his mistress to whom he had imparted his knowledge of cooking. the representations of the latter by both men and women also indicate the power differential by virtue of which the employers could represent the employees in their own line of thought. women posed themselves as adults. and patriarchal in-laws' family. patrilocal. affection. Was it this lower ranking in the familial network that made women more critical of the domestic workers? The servants being the only subalterns besides children in the family. their experiences of childhood were eclipsed by the sensibilities of an young adult that a new bride was supposed to assume. The differences between men and women in representing domestic workers beg critical questions. Women's writings also bring to the fore the sense of belonging that the domestic workers felt with the employer's family. or emotions of the serv? ing class. mostly as young brides. possibly in pre-teen or early teen years. Although both men and women acknowledge their temporal limitations in the family hierarchy women's tone of representing the domestics varies significantly from that of the males. Incidentally. While men could "happily" dwell on their "childhood" days. Raising himself to the status of a master (guru) with respect to his mistress was not a from a member of a subordinated group. The most important difference between men's and women's accounts lies in the differ? ent stages of life that they depicted: men recalled their memories as boys. and therefore. neither men's nor women's accounts capture the perceptions. or displeasure reflected in their writings bear testimony to the special position that the domestic workers en? joyed in colonial families. As an expres? sion of their own repressed and subordinated status it is possible that women vented their resentments by critically writing about the servants who socially and economically were subordinate to the women themselves. women recalled the power of the old domestics with respect to their own relatively lower positions in the family hierarchy and the difficulties they endured as young brides in a highly stratified. Their note of dissent attests to their subjectivity and agency which were often undermined This content downloaded from 175. While the nostalgia. regret. sentiments. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The dispassionate and sometimes unhappy accounts of women tend to balance out the deliberate inversion of hierarchy and sentimental recounting in men's writings. The lived experiences of both men and women are not that different and they both demonstrate the authority and sometimes abusive power of the old domestic workers over younger members of the family.

This content downloaded from 175.DOWN MEMORY LANE 699 in the hierarchical colonial families. and domestic workers cohabiting the same domestic space not only shared different kinds of relationships with one another but also had dif? ferent access to family resources and labor. Do the literary representations provide a "real" picture of the servants lives and their own world? Given that representations always stand at a distance from the objects they represent what we find is the synecdochic presence of domestic workers in the reminiscences of the Bengali middle-class. Explanations can surely multiply but what emerges is a highly ambiguous and complicated picture testifying to the multiple facets of employer-domestic relationships. conflict and tension as it did love. depending on their economic and social backgrounds. the lived experiences of subordination. The servants' characters were not transparent because none ofthe writers wrote with the intention of narrating the life-stories ofthe servants.53. It entailed as much concern and caution. determined the relationships with domestic workers. It is here that we also notice the discrepancy between the discursive practices and the day to day living of the is the importance of the Bengali middle class. That is. the mistress acting as the commander of the hosuehold and being bestowed with the responsibility of supervising and taking care of the servants. Yet subscribing inhering in the domestic-employer exploitation to the same ideology advocated by their male counterparts women found in the personal narratives an avenue to voice their hierarchical differences with the domestic workers. facets of empioyers and But the purpose of culling the multi-dimensional servants is not just to provide a "thick description" of the relationships but also to question why and how the domestics were represented in the "master discourse" left by the empioyers. dependence. and torture described by the women happened to defy the norms outlined in the manuals. affection. namely. Conclusion The foregoing discussion demonstrates that the relationship between em? pioyers and domestics in colonial Bengal was so nuanced and complex that it defies any gross generalization. Interestingly however. fear. The variegated nature ofthe colonial families. women. and care.198 on Sat. The diverse experiences narrated in of the Bengali middle accounts reveal the heterogeneity the autobiographical class and its families. Instead of naturalizing or homogenizing the servants as a subordinated group in a hierarchical household the authors in fact redefined and extended the boundaries of the home and with the the family to incorporate the intimacies and emotional connections domestic workers. and power networks. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Both male and female writers determined their tone of representation in a persuasive mode that downplayed the marks of coercion and relationship. An exploration into the literary expressions of the Bengali middle class took us to the complex world of the colonial Bengali families with its hierarchies. Men. a theme powerfully addressed in the domestic manuals and internalized by most middle-class women. What stands out nonetheless domestic workers in colonial homes?a point emphasized in the manuals as well as borne out by the experiences ofthe memoir writers. servants figured as part of a whole and never as complete actors with complexities of their own lives.110.

India. India. and Mark Thumer for their comments on various versions of this paper. The ruthlessness and affection. Arijit Banerjee. The Servant's Hand English Fictions From Behw (New York. Report by E. Home and Hegemony: Domestic Service 4. Bruce Robbins. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . illustrate an incident. Census of India. FL ENDNOTES I am indebted to my colleagues at the University of Florida. 1. Class. 5. evokof close attachments. 1933). V. 1997). 1913). prove a point. Report by J. T.198 on Sat. Slavery and Law (New Delhi. Department of History Gainesville. Indrani Chatterjee. domestics?display and an effort to enunciate and enforce bourgeois moral values upon subordinate workers. Leela Fernandez. Part I. Report by A. Bengal and Sikkim. 1984). Part I. This content downloaded from 175. Samita Sen. 1911.. See Census of India. E. 2000).700 journal of social history spring 2004 The domestics. Part 1. Sheryl Kroen. 1911. vol. UK. India.A. 1999). on the other. had neither the access nor the eligibility to read or write. or fulfill a need. from whose constructive suggestions and assistance I have greatly benefited. vol. See Kathleen Adams & Sarah Dickey eds. Dangerous Outcast: The Prostitutes in Nineteenth Century Bengal (Calcutta. Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing. Part I. Census of India. and Culture in the Calcutta Jute Mills (Philadelphia. The process of distancing and closeness. At the same time their moments of parting point to their ultimate powerlessness in an unequal relationship of home-based employment. 3. resolve an action. "Masculinity. 2. India.110. 1. and Servitude: Domestic Workers in Calcutta in th eTwentieth Century" in Feminist Studies 26: 3 (2000). Raka Ray. Although they have no existence apart from the impression they left upon their employers it is still possible to infer from the above accounts their own subject positions. My special thanks goes to Sunetra Mitra. bullying and protection that the domestics displayed in dealing with children and young brides and their refusal to comply with their employers' cultural practices are indicators of their strength and agency despite their subordinated status in a complicated nexus of power. Producing Workers: the Politics of Gender. and the simultaneous distancing from ing sentiments attempts to erase the marks of domination. Some other leading works on lower social groups in Bengal are Sumanta Banerjee. They appeared as marginal characters to make a case. Gender. the anonymous reviewers and the editor and coordinator of the Journal of Social History. mostly illiterate. 1999). Part I. Census of India.A. 1931. 1. The persisting memories of men and women?inverting hierarchy. 1986). Gait. The Changing Role of Women in Bengal 1849-1905 (Princeton. and Identity Politics in South and Southeast Asia (Ann Arbor. 1921.53. of affection and domination attests to the refurbishing ofa new domestic culture crucial for main? taining middle-class identity unfolding within the domain of colonial Bengali homes. 1913. Meredith Borthwick. Marten (Calcutta. 1924). Report by E. vol. 1998). Gait (Calcutta. Porter (Calcutta. vol. particularly Professors Thomas Galliant. 1. Femininity. on the one hand. Women and Labor in Late Colonial India: the Bengal Jute Industry (Cambridge.

27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Muchachas No More: Household Workers in the Latin America and the Caribbean (Philadelphia. 1981). For the colonial period see Tanika Sarkar "The Hindu Wife and the Hindu Nation: Domesticity and Nationalism in Nineteenth Century Bengal" in Studies in History. with Original Photographs(January 1914-July 1931) and Quotations from Isak Dinesen (New York. Mass. Between Women: Domestics and Their Empioyers (Philadelphia. The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick. ed. NY. Maids and Madams: Domestic Workers Under Apartheid (London. National Committee on Employer-Employee Relationships was formed in 1928. 1975). 2. 7. For discussion of servant's low status and their consequent negiect in scholarly work. 8. This is a problem faced by most scholars working on subaltern population.s. formed its first Commission on Household Employment in 1915. Elsa Joubart's recording of Poppie's story is a remarkable addition in this genre: The Long Journey ofPoppie Nongena (Johannesburg. 1998). 2000). cit. 1985). see Jacklyn Cock. Carmen: The Autobiography of a Spanish Galician Woman (Cambridge. first published 1980). 1982): 67-79. VictorianMaidservant (London. Karen Tranberg Hansen who expresses similar concern in her work Distant Companions. Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). 1989). Shellee Cohen. Radhika Singha. Under the aegis and initiative of YWCA. 12. actively concerned with problems of domestic service. Longingfor Darkness: Kamantes Talesfrom Out of Africa. Their records have been used by scholars to analyse domestic employment rela? tionships in the U.S." Current Anthropobgy. 8. op. For records left by servants. 1900-1985 (Ithaca. Slavery and Law (Delhi. "Domes? tic Workers in the Caribbean" in Elsa Chaney & Mary Garcia Castro eds. Muchachas No More. Indrani Chatterjee's work mentioned above is an exception to that trend but it spanned across the early colonial period and was restricted to the study of a noble house? hold. 1989. V. This content downloaded from 175. See for example. Recasting Women: Essays in Indian Colonial History (New Brunswick. Authors working on servants in different regions of the world have discussed the common problem of invisibility of servants in recent scholarship. In the United States of America. NJ. and JudithMaria Buechler. (1992) and Partha Chatterjee. Patricia Mohamed. Among others are: Peter Beard. 1989). 9.198 on Sat. This paper draws its sources mainly from Hindu and Brahmo writers who constituted a significant proportion ofthe Bengali middle class. and "The Nationalist Elite" in The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton. "Power and Solidarity: Clientage in Domestic Service. 11.53. "The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question" in Kumkum Sangari & Sudesh Vaid eds. 23:1 (Feb. 1993). 1984). collector. 1999). 1990). NJ. Gender. See Phyllis Palmer. 10. See for example Adams and Dickey (2000) and Ray (2000) mentioned above for the contemporary period.. 1989). 14. Indrani Chatterjee. The National Women's Trade Union League passed the resolution "Standardization of Domestic Service" in 1919..110. 1980). Rollins. Between Women: Domestics and their Empioyers. Servants and Empioyers in Zambia. Hans C. A Despotism ofLaw: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India (Delhi.DOWN MEMORY LANE 701 6. Judith Rollins. Tellis-Nayak. A similar process of hiring of domestic workers as a sign of gaining respectability was also at work in Muslim households of colo? nial Bengal. See Partha Chatterjee. 13. n. See for example Taslima Nasrin's recent memoir Amar Meyebeh (Calcutta. Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States.. 1920-1945 (Philadelphia. "Justa Little Respect: West Indian Domestic Servants in New York City" in Elsa Chaney & Mary Garcia Castro eds. the classic example is Liz Stanley.

21. See Maitreyi Krishnaraj and Karuna Chanana eds. 20. 5. "Examining Family History" in Feminist Studies. pp.702 journal of social history spring 2004 15.N. For more on this see Indra Mitra. See Rayna Rapp. It is both revealing and ironic that despite the community's avowed repudiation of casteism. Another interesting case in point was the encounter between Ramtanu Lahiri. 174-200. 83-125.53. This content downloaded from 175. Partners in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagoreand the Age ofEnterprise in Eastern India (Berkeley. The importance that the Brahmos attached to caste was evident from the accounts of Rabindranath Tagore himself. who came to reside in Jorasanko in North Calcutta around 1784. On his way to the zamindari estate of Selaidah in Eastern Bengal Rabindranath wrote a letter to his wife Mrinalini Debi in a somewhat funny but confessional mode that he brought with him a part-time Brahmin cook at a rather high rate (one rupee a day). and Rabindranath's father. vol. 24. 16. Subaltern Studies IX (Delhi. Based on an article by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak there is a reigning debate in the field whether subalterns can speak or not. #1 (1979). 1993). Mukherjee. In the nineteenth century Dwarkanath's son.110. one of the leading Indian entrepreneurs. "The City Imagined: Calcutta ofthe Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries" in Writing Social History (Delhi. such prominent Brahmo members as Rabindranath Tagore and Ramtanu Lahiri could not transcend the caste rules in their daily practices. an activitist Brahmo leader and the famous Hindu social reformer Iswarchandra Vidyasagar. Beyond Representations:Construction of Indian Identity (forthcoming) 18.198 on Sat. Subaltern Gender: Nationalist Ideology and Its Historiography" in Shahid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty eds. S. 1998)./London. 1996). For an interesting spin on Spivak's argument see Kamala Visweswaran's "Small Speeches. cit. See Blair Kling. p. 1815. See Gayatri Chakrabarty Spivak. 17. 1988). 1989). vol. 23. 1976). dishonesty. etc. Calcutta in Urban History (Calcutta. Women. 22. pp. For negative portrayals of servants focusing on such issues as sexuality. Gender and the Household Domain and Cultural Dimensions (New Delhi. 159-185. Members of this family such as Dwarkanath Tagore. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . where Ramtanu insisted on finding a Brahmin cook. (Calcutta. He exhorted in a tone of sarcasm that he was paying the cook so highly because being a Brahmin how could he eat food cooked by a non-Brahmin servant! See Rabindranath Tagore.N. In many respects the Tagore family of Jorasanko was the culturebuilder and the trendsetter of contemporaneous middle class in Calcutta. 19. 17-30. Letter # 32 written to Mrinalini Debi in 1901 from Kustia on his way to Selaidaha (Calcutta. pp. Op. KarunasagarVidyasagar (Calcutta. were one of the aristocratic families of early Calcutta. Dwarkanath was also a pioneering member of leading Indian assoications such as the Landholder's Society. 271-313. Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (Urbana.1838" in Calcutta: Essays in Urban History. pp. Pradip Sinha. S. "Can Subal? tern Speak?" in Carey Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg eds. 1993). "Classs. For a detailed dis? cussion of caste issues for hiring of servants see my "A Genealogy of Servants: Dominance and Subordination in Households of Colonial Bengal" in Men. Caste and Politics in Calcutta. The Tagores. and Domestics: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Colonial Bengal (forthcoming). 1. Chithipatra. 1992). Debendranath became involved in the leadership of the Brahmo movement in Calcutta. in middle-class autobiographies see my article "Subverting the Moral Universe: Analyzing 'Narratives of Transgression' in the Construction of Bengali Middle-Class Identity" in Crispin Bates ed. developed close business ties with the British. 343. Mukherjee. Sumit Sarkar. 1978).

Words to Win: The Making of Amar Jiban: A Modern Autobiog? raphy (New Delhi. 1870).198 on Sat. 26. "Marginalization of Women's Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta" in Sangari and Vaid eds. Women and Labor in Late Colonial India: the Bengal Jute Industry (Cambridge. [1823]) pp. Gender. 1990). 31. pp. Mukherjee. 1973). Gideon Colquhoun Sconce. Op. it was a classic example of the deployment of the British policy of "divide and rule.DOWN MEMORY LANE 703 25. This content downloaded from 175. cited above. 1999). (1992). 1966). Sumanta Banerjee. 1-5. 7-8. 127-179. 40. 30. V. N irmala Banerjee. A Handy Book on the Law of Master and Servant (Cal? cutta. vol. Bengal and Sikkim. Reprinted in Bhabanicharan Bandyopad? hyaya (1787-1848). It is important to note that the same three words are also used to explain the meaning of servant in Haricharan Bandyopadhyay ed. Swadeshi Movement in Bengal 1903-1908 (New Delhi. 1933). The Swadeshi movement of 1905 was launched against Viceroy Lord Curzon's plan to divide Bengal into two separate provinces: the Hindu dominated Western Bengal and the Muslim dominated Eastern Bengal. cit. 38. Although the pretext for the partition was administrative convenience. 33. (Calcutta. 1230 BS. Bangiya Shabdakosh (Calcutta. pp. Slavery and Law in Colonial India (Delhi. Op. original pub 1230 B. op. See Rajat K. 39. cit. Ray.N.N. [1823]). Calcutta The Living City. "The Hindu Wife and the Hindu Nation: Domesticity and Nationalism in Nineteenth Century Bengal" in Studies in History. Mukherjee (1993) cited above. Also see Malabika. 1993). 269-301. Mukherjee. 32.S. 8. NJ. 1991) and Meredith Borthwick. "The Nationalist Resolution of the Women's Question" in Sangari & Vaid eds. pp. 34. 29. Census of India 1931. Porter (Calcutta. See Tanika Sarkar. 1 Past." For more on Swadeshi movement see Sumit Sarkar. 2.(Calcutta. Changing Role of Women in Bengal. Sumanta Banerjee. S.N.s. 41. 37. See both Sumit Sarkar (1998) and S.Karlekar. 1999). Report by A. cit. 233-253. 1990). Social Conflict and Political Unrest in Bengal 1875-1927 1984). Kolikata Kamalalaya (Calcutta: Samachar Chandrika. Recasting Women. 76-84. Calcutta: Essays in Urban History (Calcutta. Partha Chatterjee. Voices From Within: Early Personal Narratives of Bengali Wbmen (Delhi. Bhabanicharan Bandyopadhyay. 36. Rasrachanasamagra. UK. "The World of Ramjan Ostagar: The Common Man of Old Calcutta" in Sukanta Chaudhury ed. Part I. pp.53. 1999). 1987). Meredith Borthwick. 35. Recasting Women. Bhabicharan Bandyopadhyaya. "Working Women in Colonial Bengal: Modernization and Margi? nalization" in Sangari and Vaid eds.110. Kalikata Kamalalaya (Calcutta: Samachar Chandrika. n. 27. vol. 2. pp. E. For an insightful analysis of the definitionai struggle with slavery see Indrani Chat? terjee. and Nirmala Banerjee. 28. (Delhi. Also cited in S. p. Recasting Women (New Brunswick. See Samita Sen. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

NY. the personal narratives under consideration do not register such differences. Mass.53. 1925). Anandachandra Sen Gupta. Maids too came from these castes. In the same way the theme of sexuality of servants and the question of sexual exploitation are also suppressed in these narratives. Some other important domestic manuals of colonial Bengal are Dineshchandra Sen. vol. until about the twentieth century most of the servants hired in the Bengali families came from Bengal proper and belonged mainly to the Kaibarta caste of Midnapore and Aguri caste of Burdwan district in current West Bengal. For a detailed breakdown of the caste composition of the domestic workers see my "A Genealogy of Servants: Dominance and Subordination in Households of Early Calcutta?Eighteenth through Twentieth Centuries" in Men. Ishanchandra Basu. pp. 137-164. Karen Tranberg Hansen. 1988). 1995). # 3 (August 1997): 641-677. 1920). As Mahendranath Datta (1929) pointed out in his social commentary on old Calcutta. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White. See Ann Stoler. 2004. Although we know from other sources such as family records and manuals that there was a power differential between male and female servants and that the males ranked higher in the hierarchy of servants. 1887). NC. 2 (June-July 2001). African Encounters with Domesticity (New Brunswick. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 47. Also see Judith E. All translations from Bengali.704 journal of social history spring 2004 42. Besides. From the turn of the century domestic workers started coming out from Bihar. there was a Kayastha caste in Midnapore. 48. 1992).198 on Sat. and Domestics: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Colonial Bengal (forthcoming) and "Subverting the Moral Universe: Narratives of Transgression in the Construction of Bengali Middle-class Identity" in Crispin Bates ed. forthcoming. except otherwise stated.. Women. 1921. and the United Provinces (Census of India 1911. 45.110. Walsh. forthcoming. Lalana-Suhrid (Calcutta. 56. Predicamentof Cul? ture (Cambridge. Women. 1847). For a thorough discussion on advice manuals and domestic workers see my article "Domestic Manuals on Mistress-Servant Relationships: Constructing Bengali MiddleClass Identity through Appropriate Codes of Conduct" in Modem Historical Studies. Jananir Kartavya (Calcutta. See Ambikacharan Gupta. GrihasthaJivan: Amulyajnan Bhandar (Calcutta. "Domestic Subversions and Children's Sexuality" in Race and the Education of Desire (Durham. Beyond Representation: Construction of Indian Identity. Orissa. and Domestic Workers: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Colonial Bengal. 49. For detailed treat? ment of such themes see my "A Genealogy of Servants: Dominance and Subordination in Households of Early Calcutta?Eighteenth through Twentieth Centuries" in Men. who also worked as servants. For a detailed discussion of care-giving and different areas of intimacies between do? mestic workers and empioyers see my chapter "Remembering and Writing the Subaltern: Bengali Middle Class Recalls and Represents Domestic Workers" in Men. James Clifford. no date indicated). 1986). 1931). forthcoming. Grihasree (Calcutta. ed. 149-170. Also see. Oxford University Press. pp. are mine. The examples cited above are a very limited list of the wide range of servants that prevailed in colonial Bengal. For various socio-cultural and ethnic reasons pinning down the actual caste background of the domestic workers is highly enigmatic. Women. "What Women Learned When Men Gave Them Advice: Rewriting Patriarchy in Late Nineteenth-Century Bengal" in The Journal of Asian Studies. Satishchandra Chakrabarty. This content downloaded from 175. known as Kast or Banshkaet. "Below Stairs: the Maid and the Family Romance" in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca. 44. NJ. and Domestics: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Colonial Bengal. 43. Grihinir Kartavya (Calcutta. The caste and ethnic composition of the servants were as varied as that of the nature of their work. 46.

Thod Bodi Khada (Calcutta. 1882]). trans. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1912). In contrast to Western literature where autobiography originated in the fourth cen? tury with St. 35-75. p. 1988. pp. pp. also perpetuated the memory of his wet-nurse in his short story Gobra (Girishchandra Ghosh: Girish Racanabali.DOWN MEMORY LANE 705 50. who openly admitted in his autobiography how he tried to make his faithful servant Khodai immortal. 75. On Autobiography. For more on memory and its different "forms" in colonial studies see Ann L. 51. 1991]. Sarala Debi Chaudhurani. The fact that servants were thus addressed indicates that they were held with respect by younger members in the employer's family.). pp. "Castings for the Colonial: Memory Work in 'New Order' Java" in Comparative Studies of Society and History. 13-14. 1940). 53. The Frail Hero and Virik History : gender and the politics of culture in cohnial Bengal (Delhi. Stoler & Karen Strassler. by making him a central character in his novel Mejobou. Girishchandra Ghosh (1844-1912). There is ample evidence of other writers. 57. personal narratives in the autobiographicai genre consituted a strikingly modern phenomenon in the Indian print culture that came with colonial rule. 60.53. vol. 1998). 61. Apan Katha (Calcutta. in 1879). "Postcoloniality and the Articfice of History: Who Speaks for 'Indian' Pasts?" in Repre? sentations. originally published in 1946). 1-26 55. and self-irony of the middle class see Partha Chatterjee. CobntatMasctdimty: The 'manly Englishman and the 'effiminateBengali' in the late nineteenth century (Manchester. 1993). Chhekbela (Calcutta. (Sibnath Sastri. of Indian Identity. Kaiyani Datta. Jivaner Jhara Pata (Calcutta. The suffices "dada" in "Kunjadada" and "didi" in "Bejodidi" are the Bengali terms for addressing the eider brother and sister respectively. 52. 1988). 56. See Sarkar. 1 [Calcutta. Tanika Sarkar. Beyond Ref>resentation. Atmacharit [Calcutta.198 on Sat. Winter (1992) #37. "The Nationalist Elite" in The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton. For more on colonial critique of Bengali middle class men see Mrinalini Sinha. vol. Indira Chowdhury. 54. 1999). forthcoming. Words to Win: The Making of Amar Jiban: A Modern Autobiography (New Delhi. Jivansmriti (Calcutta. Rabindranath Tagore. 42. 62. with foreword by Paul John Eakin. such as Sibnath Sastri (1847-1919). For an argument along the above lines see Dipesh Chakrabarty. Words to Win: The Making of Amar Jiban: A Modern Autobiography. While Bengali personal narratives mostly displayed suppressed treatment of personal or intimate themes. "The Ironic Narrative of Childhood: Valles" in Philippe Lejeune. Rabindranath Tagore.110.. originally pub. by Katherine Leary (Minneapolis. the famous nineteenth century playwright.K. 58. 3rd ed. 1975. 59. For a more detailed treatment of Tagore's poem Puraton Vritya (The Old Servant) see my "Subverting the Moral Universe: Narratives of Transgression in the Construction of Construction Bengali Middle-class Identity" in Crispin Bates ed. Abanindranath Tagore. a social reformer and an early architect of Indian nationalism. 1993). they nonetheless reflect the desire to project the desired self-image ofthe authors. 2000): 4-48. As Kaiyani Datta mentions she is not alone in doing this. self-ridicule. 1995). This content downloaded from 175. See Philippe Lejeune. For more on auto-critique. Augustine's Confessions. Number 1 (Jan. U.

1997). 1994). 1992). a collection of women's writings from Bamabodhini Patrika (1270-1329 B. Also see Nita Kumar. As the author implies. journal of social history spring 2004 Pramodkumar Chattopadhyaya. op.). "Discipline and Mobilize" in Partha Chatterjee and Gyanendra Pandey eds. The word Maharaj means "the great King". Subattern Studies. "The Unperceived Self: A Study of Five Nineteenth Century Autobiographies. 1993). a destitute Kayastha woman. Subaltern Studies vol. She spent the rest of her life with the Mukherjee family as a surrogate mother until her death. were raised by an old maid called Jahnabi. 70. 76. Girishchandra Ghosh. VII (Delhi. 69. cit. Dukhi Maharaj implies an attribute to Dukhi. cit. ed.706 63. 67." in Economic and Political Weekly: Review of Women's Studies 21 (October 1986). pp. Sarala Debi Chaudhurani. op. 'Birds in a Cage': Changes in Bengali Social Life as Recorded in Autobiographies by Women. following the death of their mother. Women's Dialect in Bengal (Calcutta.198 on Sat. She was so loyal and kind-hearted that she took care of the children without even receiving any wages for a long time. 1967). 75. 1991). Voices From Within: Early Personal Narratives of Bengali Women (Delhi. 72. For women's writings in colonial Bengal see Bharati Ray ed. Premankur Atarthi. 1995). the eminent nineteenth century Bengali playwright and This content downloaded from 175. 65. and "Dominance with? out Hegemony and its Historiography" in Ranajit Guha ed. 1994). Ibid. 77. 1988). originally pub. 28. a leading women's journal in colonial India. p. Sekaler Nareeshiksha: Bamabodhini Patrika (Calcutta. Also see Sukumar Sen. Education and Women: Explorations in Gender Identity (New Delhi. as derived from Dukhia. MahasthabirJatak (Calcutta. 69-120. Meenakshi Mukherjee.110. Sir Ashutosh's father Gangaprasad along with his three siblings. Also see Malabika Karlekar. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in 1879). Antahpurer Atmakatha " (Calcutta." Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee (1864-1924). 66. SeeAbhijitSen&AbhijitBhattacharyaeds. new edition.. 73. The word Dukhi. 1984). Premankur Atarthi. 1994). The instances of maids substituting biological mothers was not confined to Tagote family alone. Srabashi Ghosh. 1.53. 74. 1979). 42. the servants name was synonymous with his character. pp. For more on Bengali women's autobiography see Chitra Deb. means "Sorrowful"/"Mournful". Due to the severe illness of his mother following his birth. Worlds Between: Historical Perspectiveson Gender and Class (New York. For a particularly instructive discussion on persuasive and coercive modes of domi? nation see Ranajit Guha. 68. 64. vol. p. 28-29. Leonore Davidoff. p. An important case in point comes from the family of the "Bengal Tiger. The term midwife is used coterminously with wet-nurse in Bengali literature. Jivaner Jhara Pata (Calcutta. Women as Subjects (Calcutta. PrankumarerSmriticharan(Calcutta. the famous chief justice of the Calcutta High Court and the Vice Chancellor oi the University of Calcutta. Socialization. 71. or Jani.S." in Karuna Chanana. VI (Delhi.She/ceiefCat/ia:ShatakSuchonoaiMeyeder Smritikatha(Calcutta.. 1975. Pramodkumar Chattopadhyaya.

27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1991). 148-149. Atmakatha (Calcutta. Later in his life. One may argue in this context that Rabindranath Tagore's accounts were marked by the same terror and hostility that characterized women's accounts.53. Although published at a later date the novel relates the experiences of the author in colonial times.S. 78. (1868) she was about fifty-nine year old. and the fact that maids substituted for birth mothers in extreme cases. (1901): 107110. (1809). 86. Giribala Debi. Ghosh's statement. Jivaner Jhara Pata. also grew up under the care of a maid belonging to the low Bagdi caste. 5-10.). It needs to be pointed out that the majority of the Bengali women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came from this religious community. For more on Giribala Debi and her work see the "Introduction" to Raibari by Jasodhara Bagchi and Bani Ray. when her book was first published in 1275 B. 81. "Sekaler Ramani. (1992). "Sekaler Katha" in Antahpur.S. lndira Debi-Chaudhurani. in 1991. While hiring of servants was very common.DOWN MEMORY LANE 707 dramatist. 1981). See Girish Racanabali Vol. 82. 87. 1993). See Dineshchandra Sen. See Umaprosad Mukherjee. (April 1901): 82-89. "Amar Jiban" in Nareshchandra Jana et al. Women. Raibari. 1988). See Rassundari Debi.). ln Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (New York/London.S. 85. Jadavpur University. 1991). Hemantakumari Sen Gupta. and Domestics: Articulating Middle-Class Identity in Cobnial Bengal (forthcoming).S. Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak) that illustrates the practice of hiring wet-nurses even among less acclaimed families and brings out the emotive and social distance that existed between the patron families and the hired care-giver.S. Prasannamayi Debi. "Women and the Nation" in The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton. eds. Girishchandra often remarked humorously that his mischievous and fidgety childhood could perhaps be attributed to the fact that he grew up suckled by a low-caste Bagdi woman. Grihasree (Calcutta. Calcutta. despite the obvious reservation that Girish Ghosh nursed about women ofthe lower class and castes. 1308 B. In fact. See my chapter. Employment of cooks was a new phenomenon among " Bengali middle class in the second half of the nineteenth century. Raibari was published as a whole book in 1991 by the De's Publishing and the School of Women's Studies. Sarala Debi Chaudhurani. p. 1925) (10th ed. pp. he did pay his tribute to his maid by writing a short story called Gobra about her. 1993). see Partha Chatterjee. See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. eds. 84. 83. Baisakh. also affirms middle class's dependence on domestic workers. This content downloaded from 175. For more on Prasannamayi Debi and her memoir Purbakatha." in Antahpur.S. the cooks had a rather belated entry in the colonial Bengali households. Jaistha. While the critical contents of the two accounts definitely overlap it is instructive to note the lightness of tone and sarcasm with which Rabindranath represented the issues with domestic workers in his reminiscences.198 on Sat. Dheyaney Alokrekha (Calcutta. It first came out as a series in Prabasi in 1962 (1369 B. 79. Giribala Debi. Rassundari Debi mentions in her autobiography that she was probably born in 1216 B. 1 (Calcutta. "Jivan Katha" (written between 1953?*55) published in Sardadiya Ekkshan 1399 B. while conveying the pejorative attitude of the middle-class towards lower-caste working women. 1308 B. A Genealogy of Servants: Dominance and Subordination in Households of Early Calcutta? Eighteenth through Twentieth Centuries" in Men. 80.110. Subir Ray Chandhuri and Abhijit Sen (Calcutta. 12 For more critical insights see Mahasweta Devi's short story "The Breast-Giver" (trans.

RakamariNiramish Ranna (Calcutta.198 on Sat. cit. "Mother" (Ma) is a common term of respectful address for elderly women. Domestics and workers most commonly address the mistress and sometimes other female members of the empioyer's household by this term. Kamini must have been her daughter's name. This content downloaded from 175. "Kamini's Mother" was not the name of the maid herself. and she was addressed as her mother. 89. In this address.708 journal of social history spring 2004 88. age and gender of the addresser are less important determinants. 27 Jul 2013 14:32:07 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 91.110. It is still a custom in Bengal to address elderly women not by their own names. Renuka Debi Chaudhurani. 1988). but by referring to them as mothers of their sons and daughters. 90. op. See Renuka Debi Chaudhurani.53.