THIS BOOK, which started as a dialogue between two friends, soon became a much larger conversation that involved virtually everyone we both know, so our gratitude to our friends, relatives, colleagues, and kind strangers is boundless and ineffable.
Above all we must acknowledge the employers and workers who so generously gave of their time and allowed us to listen to their stories, worries, and hopes. The employers often invited us into their homes and plied us with food and drink even as they submitted to our questions. The workers gave us the one thing they so lack—free time—often sacrificing their afternoon rest periods to talk to us, and generously introduced us to friends whom we could interview. This book could not have been written without the encouragement and sage counsel of Achin Kumar Pal, who not only recommended employers and servants we should interview but also enriched our daily lives in Kolkata immeasurably.
We would like to thank the following individuals for their expertise and guidance: Sukhendu Ray for his impeccable and illuminating translations; Bharati Ray for sharing with us her knowledge and wisdom about women's history in Bengal; Bela and Nripen Bandapadhay, Gautam Bhadra, Bonani Biswas, Monideep Chatterjee, Keya Dasgupta, Tanika and Sumit Sarkar, and Animesh Sen for invaluable advice and commentary on Kolkata; Ruprekha Chowdhury for photographs and translations; Professor Jyotirmoy Dasgupta for providing us with Bengali novels and short stories; Samir Dutt for locating material on colonial Calcutta; Sanjukta Ray for research documents and North Kolkata introductions; Dibyendu Law and Ramen Datta for kindly allowing us