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Interview with Antara Mukherjee - Upclose

On a humid Sunday morning in Chennai, I connect virtually with Antara Mukherji from Delhi. She is an associate academic editor at Crimson Interactive. The patchy network does not hinder our lively spirits.

Why did you choose social work?

Social work is often deemed as a field for “Voluntary Service”. It is an offbeat career that mainstream media and society does not consider seriously. “..I was adopted by a single parent myself and integrated into the family,....it seemed like the right step to me, I wanted to help other children with this transition.”, says Antara.

“Everybody has a very academic understanding of social workers. We are given the same training as psychologists (with regards to counseling for children, sensitivity and intervention) but since our degree is not scientific the pay is less.”, Antara gives an insight to the monetary difficulties of social workers. People with social security and privilege can sustain themselves with their salaries. However, social work employees who require financial security and upliftment find it extremely difficult to sustain. Employees from the field themselves are at higher vulnerability with this underappreciated social work.

The pandemic has also rendered many NGOs reduce their staff due to lack of funds and work restrictions in the work from home model.

I can’t imagine the complexities with interventions and the mental impact on people dealing with this on a regular basis, don’t you find it mentally taxing ?”

“It is mentally taxing, as social workers need to be instinctive with interventions. We often have a ‘Plan A’ in mind but it changes with circumstances….”, She explains the execution of interventions in sensitive realities. Factors like child welfare, mental health, schooling and domestic environment contribute to the child’s growth. When social workers gauge these issues regularly, it drastically affects their mental health.

“So I say, when you go through puberty you gain weight, you grow taller and your pacha too gets bigger !.....”, Antara recounts from her workshops on Menstrual Hygiene when she was working with Deepalaya. “I try to make my workshops funny,comfortable, informative, I also try to crack them up with ‘pacha’ ….”, She continues. She uses a Bangla word for the rear end to inspire curiosity among kids. “They ask, what’s pacha ? and I say pacha you know, your bum ! ”, it lightens the atmosphere. Young girls discuss their problems with her, the initial reaction is rage because of the atrocities and the restricted options. “I can’t really break down in front of children right ? so I use humour….”, she expresses.

Writing, Editing and more

Antara’s work includes reading, editing and actively engaging in academic writing, conference papers and research papers from across the sub continent. She gives an insight to non native English speaking academics in Social Work. “They have a lot more to say in their native tongue, their work can be translated in English with integrity without losing it’s essence..”, she rightly points out. The rigid style of academic writing in English does affect the authenticity, however it is not a limitation.

Further, she reminisces about her earliest memory of writing, “I remember filling two copies (classwork notebooks), I wrote a novel…”, she laughs at the memory. She supports a reading habit among children. Antara reasons that the limited number of public libraries in India prevent access to affordable books. The mobile libraries thriving today are a great attempt to foster reading habits among children.

*This interview was an output of weekly held Mentor sessions virtually, via Google Meet.

Shreya Sharma is currently pursuing B. A. English Literature from Stella Maris College, Chennai. She likes to engage in subaltern studies and gender ideology. She likes reading, writing, debating and public speaking. Currently, she works with Kanyaka Foundation as an Intern.

Antara Mukherjee did her graduation in Sociology from AUD, she did her Masters In social work from TISS, Mumbai, and is currently working as an Associate Academic Editor at Crimson Interactive. Antara is deeply passionate about Social Work and Academics. She has previously worked in Deepalaya, for Right to Education for children as well as women’s empowerment. In the meantime she has been reading papers in international conferences and is working on various publications in related fields.


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