Sociology

Digital Adda: A Paradigm Shift Among The Bengali Middle Class

The term ‘adda’ (as defined by Dipesh Chakraborty) signifies ‘the practice of get together of friends for long, informal and un-rigorous conversations’. Adda whch was historically a practice among the middle class Bengali men (Bhadrolok) has also become a practice of middle class Bengali women as well.

Historically, adda as a practice originated since colonial rule with the onset of Coffee Houses in Kolkata by academic elitists followed by baithakkhana(visiting parlour) followed by tea stalls, bus stops, office cafeterias, and mostly in the rawk (the external verandah), the glimpses of which still continue to exist in the traditional lanes of North Kolkata! Neverthless, adda soon became quintessential of Bengali middle class from twentieth century when it transformed from a private to a public venue. The fact that adda was a known practice among Bengali middle class was mainly because it originated among the Bengali middle class men.

Due to the present pandemic situation which has brought forth new norms and practices, another major paradigm shift has mainly been with regard to the change from the physical interaction (adda) to social interaction virtually. However, before the pandemic hit the world, adda over the virtual space used to take place but it became more normalized with the lockdown phase.

Social media which on one hand helps to stay in touch with any closed kin, peer or acquaintance globally, also on the other hand presents notable challenges involved in its access. The present digital adda is mostly prevalent among the upper and middle class since digitization imposes the challenge of digital divide in a Third World country like India! Social media has opened up avenues for the affluent classes of society due to which both en and women irrespective of their age are being able to spend valuable tie with their friends (even if it involves friends from locality- para).

Though the present Unlock 4 of the post-pandemic situation has allowed people to venture out mostly at times of need, yet adda over the virtual space continue to predominate characterized by tinge of laughter and ecstasy related to family affairs and gossip about friends and intimate relations. However, a massive paradigm shift can be noticed from the physical to virtual interaction where physical distancing along with social solidarity can be properly maintained (keeping in mind the pros and cons of social media usage!). After all, Bengali middle class is mostly best in adopting and accommodating to any new norm and practices (with due reverence to other classes). While on one hand, it has been envisioned that adda as a practice in physical space is becoming obsolete, it is also been replaced by social media like WhatsApp, Facebook, Hangout, Telegram. The only hope that Digital Adda continues to exist since adda is one of the defining key characteristic of most Bengali middle class culture without which Bengalis may seem to lose their identity!

Reference:
Saha, Wriddhibrata, Performing Gender in Adda Spaces, Sessional Paper, Pgs 4,9, Retrieved 13-09-2020

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