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Ethnographic Study

Research Question:
Which sounds are most significant to the social group?

- Understanding the Researcher’s frame to become aware of our biases
- Searching a social group who speaks the same language as the researcher to gain access and to become an insider in the social group
- Field visits – Participation Observation
- Field visits – Long Interview
- Transcription
- Open Coding and forming categories
- Interpreting
- Writing synthesis

The Social Group:
Name of the Company : Embrose Pvt Limited
Spoken Language : Tamil.
No.of members : 3
Area : 7th Block, Eri Scheme, Mogappair, Chennai. All the members stay in the same street.
The company manufactures rubber based washers, empty spaces and automobile parts. It is a small scale industry located near the industrial hub of Chennai, Ambattur. The company started before 18 years one machine operated the owner himself. Now they have around 15 employees working in two shifts. The company is at a walking distance from my home. But this was my first engagement with them, as we shifted to this area very recently.

Saraswathi, called as 'Ammuma' by others
Caste : Mudaliar (Backward Caste )
Can read and write Tamil.
She is 48 years old and has been working in the company since the beginning. Her house is located just opposite to the company. Her native is ‘Tindivanam’, 123 km from Chennai. She is a fat lady with turmeric applied all over her face. She has a bhindi in the size of the moon. Completed her 10th standard. Head of a female self help group, chit fund owner, Dog-lover, Very religious person, loudmouth, curse – machine, hard core non-vegetarian. Discusses politics. All gossip in the group starts with her. She knows everyone in the block and their family details. She is the eldest and the most dominant person in the group. Doesn’t take responsibility in company works and very slow at tasks due to poor eyesight and aging. Involved in the main activities like cutting of the pieces.

Caste:sakiliar ( Scheduled caste )
Can read and write Tamil.
She is 40 years old. She is a drop out from school. Has 3 kids. Religious person. She is a member of Ammuma’s self help group and chit fund. She is a dog-lover. Hard working, Smart and Calculative. Talks only when needed. Aware of everything in the area, but speaks less. Very responsible in the company. Owner and the Supervisor trusts her. Owns a mobile. Socially aware and well informed. Uses bad words. Close to Ammuma, because of the chit fund and self help group. Married at the age of 16. Involved in cutting and removing of the pieces.


Caste : Paraiyan ( Scheduled caste )
Can read and write Tamil.
She is 26 years old. From lower class. Have been working in the company for 2 years. Very timid and quiet.Doesn’t talk much. Knows little about the area. She is from Ambasamuthiram, Tirunelveli District, 663km from Chennai. She is not a part of any groups like others. She is helped by both Ammuma and Amudha with works in the company. She is only involved in removing, counting of the pieces and cleaning the workspace everyday.

Daily Routine :
The company functions in 2 shifts, day and night.
Day Shift: 9.00 AM – 5.30 PM, Lunch: 1.00 PM – 2.00PM
Molding: Molding of rubber into the desired purpose like, washer, spacer, is done using Semi-
automated machine. Only the men are involved and they work in both shifts. No members from the social group are involved in this. Based on the size of the material, 10 – 20 pieces are molded at a time. This takes around 5 minutes. This is done by applying pressure and steaming.
Removing from Rubber sheets: After molding, the pieces ate still stuck to the rubber sheets. They must be removed and cleaned. This is the toughest activity. This involves the extensive tearing of the rubber sheets with the hands. Since the pieces are quite small, its very intricate. This is usually done by Thiru. Amudha joins on urgent delivery. Only Day shift
Cutting the edges and Quality check: After removing from the sheets, the extra edges in the pieces are cut using the scissors and checked for damages. This is done by Ammuma and Amudha. Only Day shift
Counting and Packing: Finally the pieces are counted and packed for delivery. This is always done by Thiru. Only Day Shift

Workplace :

Wanted to play safe
Didn’t want to have a bad impression – 9
Going for an important interview and I was very nervous. Conscious and fearful - 13 – 16
Asked carefully, so that the supervisor doesn’t throw me out.-35
namalum nalaiku 9 maniku vanthiranum – 84
Wanted to play safe, need to be careful. I shouldn’t fall into this trap, get a bad impression -109,115 -117
Would have definitely judged me. 186
Doesn’t like me much. I was worried. 281
First person to reach - 394
Didn’t want use mobile during my research. 497

At the beginning of the research, I didn’t want to have a bad impression and tried to play safe. I was conscious and fearful. I wanted to show them I am sincere and I was always on time. Sometimes I felt I was being judged. I didn’t want to use my mobile during my work. I tried to be careful and polite. Initially, had a feeling they didn’t like me much, but later became much comfortable with them.

Moral Policing Session
gave me a life advise 162
started her moral policing,”naan ingarathula paravala. Ithae maari maamiyaruku kudutha” 686,1527
"illa kazhutula kaathula onum illa. Pottu vekkala.athan kettane, chinnatha kazhuthula, athula, kaila podalam
la. Ippalam yaaru ka pottu vekura. Nee enna thala mudiya cut paniruviya?"319
with'intha kaala ponnunga' tone. 323
Enamo nalla ponna petha maari. 485
Ugalathulayae nalla pondatti iva ,Paaka than malapaambu maari.aana full ah visham. 528, 560
pondatiya adikarathu avangaluku ulla supervisor 559
“intha dress kelam, shawl poda koodatha?”
“nalaiku varumbothu, shawl potutu than varanum. Una paatha, enga ammu va pakura maari
iruku pa. Oru safety than” Nalla shawl potitu vanthiruka 665 - 684, 914-917, 1012
apidi lam, towel katitu nikka kudathu inga seriya. Athu asingam da.” – 1477
athan kozhanda inaiku makeup kooda ethuvum podala.eye liner, mascara..” 1506
veeta vitta college , atha vtta veedu.avlo than. 2001
kalayanma panrathuku, 30 ayirum pola iruku” 2399
"enthiruchi, ready ayitu, bag matitu vanthiruva. Veetla samayal lan yaaru seiva?" , wasn’t ready to spare me.It was like, she was throwing the darts continuously at me",120- 122
avangala la mattum than ipidi iruka mudiyum amudha, namma nala muduythu". 248
As the members in the social group are very conservative, they questioned a lot of things I did. They asked me to wear a dupatta for my safety. They kept judging the girls living in the street and also gave advise on, ”how to be a girl and earn a good name after marriage”. They were concerned about me not wearing jewelry and not having a bhindi and asked me to keep one. They kept telling that, girls should be married really married soon.

That is their main business
need this money ,not their hobby. – 78
kaasu neraya vara vendi iruku ,must be doing some kind of finance or money lending business.189
spoke a lot about exchange of money, that is their main business, this is just a part time job 202,1789
Inimale vera yarachukita oru 10 ruba vachu magalir kunu vaangi vechiranum -808
inimae neraya aalunga seka koodathu ka.ivanga ellam venam nu”, 1560
with usual household fear of involving husbands in chit funds business 1572

Two members, Ammuma and Amudha, in the social were a part of a Self-help group and a chit fund. Ammuma is the head of the groups. They speak a lot about exchange of money between people. Looked like that was their main business. The other members of these groups were from the same street. Most of the money exchange happens during work. They ask them to come to the company to return their money.

Epo kudupaanunga, mixie grinder
freeya vanthu doctor paathukalam , wants everything free. she was too desperate for free things 292
etho free mixie grinder lan tharaangalam ka. Enga veetla kooda poyirukaanga.kaalila layae poitaanga.” inga free mixie grinder la tharanagalm supervisor”1038, 1063
so worried that she will be left out. 1153-1157
ennaka aachu antha mariyal. Epo kudupaanunga, mixie grinder 1288
free items lan tharanga pola, athan varalaya sir. 2098
inga ellam thara maatanga pol aka. Athan mariyal panna poraangalam. Ingayum tharanum”. Amudha said with disappointment. Etho mariyal paana poraanga nu.”, mariyal paani vanga vendi iruku 305 -312
innga oru 250 peru, adutha, ward la 250 perunu oru 500 peruku kuduthaanga. Apurama ration card la tharuvaangalam. Ella minister um vanthangalae 2314

One Significant category for all the members in the social group, is the free goods to be distributed by the government in the area. Since these people work, they were always worried that they will be missed out. They got information about the status of distribution from the people in the street. Since, Ammuma house was just opposite. Nothing will go missed from them. They help each other in getting tokens and informing. They took part in the protest for demanding for the free goods in their area.

Conversation with hands:
had to apply so much pressure with my thumb and index, hands were hurting. 464
cutting needs some skills – 1113 – 1117
ithae thareenga. Kaaila apidi valikithu, . Kavya project la ezhuthum pothu, ithayum ezhuthu
kavya. Kaiyae poyidum nu. Kudutha onnae uduka vendiyathu 1417 – 1421
dialogue between the man the material 1667 – 1672
conversation with those pieces with her hands, as gentle as her voice – 2463
All the activities in the social group are done manually using hands. There is always a conversation between the material and the hands. It includs cutting, removing and counting. The removing part is difficult because of the pressure applied using thumb and index figure. This is not preferred by Amumma and Amudha. Usually done by Thiru. Cutting needs some skills and always done by Ammuma or Amudha.

Vegetable vendors in the street
kaai than romba vela athigama iruku. Pazham lan romba cheap than. 145
Aana kilo tha 30 ruba solrane. En tha ivlo kaasu vikuraanungalo 1151
lots of vendors were selling vegetables, Unaku 2 enaku rendu – 2297 -2301
unga amma enga kaai kari vaanguvaanga
The members had their daily encounter with the vegetable vendors on the street. As they work till alte in the evening, their only source to buy is from these vendors. They would be waiting for the vendors to come to the street. They negotiate and buy vegetables sitting from their place. Ammuma always picked them for Thiru. Amudha and Amumma mostly negotiated with the vendor. It happens everyday.

Love dogs so much:
Like the school kids who grow puppies without anyone’s knowledge1237 – 1253
Amudha heard the puppy scream in the street, velaya rotuku vanthicho ennamo theriyalae, ipidi kathuthu.”1240
eii ammu, stove pakathula soru iruku paaru, athula sakkarai pottu, kozhanthai vai ma konjam Ammuma instructed her daughter to feed the dogs.1581-1584
to have an eye on the dog and the house. - 1588
speak more about these dogs than their family members. They love dogs so much – 1835 -1843

Another common thing among the members is the love for dogs. They take care of the dogs from the street.They feed them daily and keep a track on their puppies. They save them from being beaten up. They also have names for them. Ammuma has a dog, taken from the same street and name as Bubloo. They refer to dogs like humans.

Ellam ithae area than pa
Just walking distance from home - 8
Minimal knowledge about the area – 67
Ellam ithae area than pa, pointing at the opposite house. – 73
Closely knit community. 148
Conservative locality, 264 – 266
Filled with lower middle class natives of Chennai.
Fight for it, even if they are not eligible for it.
Belong to backward, most – backward or scheduled classes. So they will murder these men, if they try to show their manliness in these areas. 408 -415
They are not very religious intolerant. At the same time, they don’t completely give in when there is a comparison. 1759
Very pain tolerant and don’t learn from their mistakes 1921
The most important category which holds them together beyond their work, is the area they are in. They all live in the same street. They have a strong sense of belonging with their community. They share the same problems like water, relief funds etc. The all belong to the same class, lower middle class. They always stand and help for each others problem. They are very conservative and closely knit.

sound from the street
One ear always in the street -147
Enga orae prachana illa pa, namma theru la. orae satham 509,534
velaya rotuku vanthicho ennamo theriyalae, ipidi kathuthu.” 1240
sound from the street, they started talking. 144

They are aware of everything happening in the street by having one ear always in the street even
while working. The participate, witness the fights that happens in the street. They also discuss about the sounds in the workplace.

Fat lady with turmeric applied on her face completely. Pottu was a miniature version of usha utub's pottu. Curly hair and looked at me through the hole above her specs. 33-34,447
I got my gatekeeper. – 48, 49
A very religious type person – 205
Curse-machine and wants everything free 360
Gossips happen here. Source is always our Ammuma 512
Ammuma is from a very conservative background
Unnecessary kozhachal – 695
Ms Loud mouth - 137, 704, 1461, 1490
Involved in working in public domain rather than for the family 1831

Her late 30's and little dark in complexion. -59
Concerned about her financial state. 192
The pride of the chosen one 231,836
Mystery to me – 361
Looks little calculative and her body language is little crooked 637
Knows about the new technologies better than others. She is more updated 1073
Amudha behaves very poised. Not so loud mouth. But talks when she has to. Very choosy about her things.1489
Reliable and empowered 1551
The Afro-American ladies 1690

For the first time, I heard Thiru, talk for a long time. Thiru is a thin, short lady with a matured voice. She was very polite in talking unlike other too. She didn’t talk much.
Really polite and nice 360
Found thiru's dressing sense very similar to my mom - 427
Camouflaged with the rusted stool, very timid girl, tirunelveli accent is still fresh from soil – 431
Severe backache 841,843
Looks isolated from these two, gets involved only there is some discussion or gossip about someone in the area 852

Avana, adichu keezha thalla koodathu, rendu pera kaiya pudika solitu, vaai melayae podanum. neenga
adikama vittuteenga 519 -568
Who criticizes that came out of goodwill - 1750
how a worker can’t be scared of the supervisor 83

I was surprised about the facts that, the ladies in the group were involved in the fights happening on the streets and they go to the level of beating up the person. The members are not scared of their supervisor, when they gossip about them and don’t feel threatened by him. except for one. They criticize even things that come out of friendship and goodwill.

Social group:
tea-kadai-bench’ 511
a villupaatu 165
a craft class 96
fm. Non- stop kondaatam. 164
One ear always in the street 147
Machine :
live dhokla machine 256
sailing a boat 262
non – edible, foul smelling, black dhoklas 260
dairy milk so perfectly square 881
an id card – 98
remove the 'vathal' from the cloth 883
tailoring advertisement 1669
a garland with the flowers 2459

Metaphor, ‘One ear always in the street’ denotes how the social group is always aware of the area they belong to from the , sounds of the street . They feel connected to the each other and their area, because of being constanly aware of what is happening in the street.Methaphors like, ‘tea-kadai-bench’,’a villupaatu’ and ‘fm. Non- stop kondaatam’ denotes the gossips about the people in their area, about the missing members in the workplace, their supervisor and the owner. This goes all they all day long.‘a craft class’, denotes the kind of work they do like, removing, cutting and counting. These need skills and each one takes the task based on their skill lever and experience

Significant Sounds
1. Vegetable vendor : 140 -144
like our alarm clock. but not annoying
repetitive and rhythmic.
loud and clear.
2. Mariyal 311
loud, scary and furious
Police horns,
3. Dogs: 2661
dog barking continuously, like it had swallowed a whistle, really annoying
4. Silence
The silence of work. The silence of sleepiness. The silence which people were comfortable with. The silence which was much needed from the loud mouth. – 137

The significant sounds for the social group are the “sounds of the street”. Sounds of the streets includes the people they gossip about, the vegetable vendor who sells them their everyday needs, the dog they love and the protest for their share of free goods and protest funds. These are the sounds that hold the members together as they belong the same area. They make them feel connected beyond their workplace. These are the sounds that are discussed and stood for. Though, they work sitting inside the company, they are connected to with each other and their daily needs through these sounds.

Copyright © 2017 Kavya D