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Balancing tradition and modernity in narratives surrounding contraception use among poorer women in West Bengal, India.
Unformatted Document Text:  12 Given such uncertainties, why are so many women opting for limiting and/or spacing births? The word most often heard in an answer is aajkaal, meaning literally, in the world of today. This is a powerful concept in these women’s lives, as it was used often and extensively in the context of several other powerful concepts, namely education, money, work/ jobs, and, significantly, birth control. Aajkaal implies several things within the interviews. It is a forward looking word, it means being “modern” and progressive. The word “modern” was also used, but only by the handful of women that used a few English words. In this context, it gains especial power because the unstated and occasionally stated assumption behind the word is that the world of today is different from the world of yesterday and therefore demands different strategies for survival. Forward thinking women, it emerges from the interviews have lives substantially different from women who insist on being mired in yesterday’s world. One woman at Diamond Harbor said: “My mother and grandmother had so many children; I have six brothers and sisters of my own (as opposed to cousins). But now the world has changed, and you cannot do that sort of thing even if you wanted to.” Did she want to? She says: “I don’t know, I have two children. I may have had one or two more, but in today’s world I don’t know.” Women who have decided to limit births frequently expressed disapproval toward those they know who had not taken the same decision. These women were seen as

Authors: Mookerjee, Devalina.
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12
Given such uncertainties, why are so many women opting for limiting and/or
spacing births? The word most often heard in an answer is aajkaal, meaning literally, in
the world of today. This is a powerful concept in these women’s lives, as it was used
often and extensively in the context of several other powerful concepts, namely
education, money, work/ jobs, and, significantly, birth control.
Aajkaal implies several things within the interviews. It is a forward looking word, it
means being “modern” and progressive. The word “modern” was also used, but only by
the handful of women that used a few English words. In this context, it gains especial
power because the unstated and occasionally stated assumption behind the word is that
the world of today is different from the world of yesterday and therefore demands
different strategies for survival.
Forward thinking women, it emerges from the interviews have lives substantially
different from women who insist on being mired in yesterday’s world. One woman at
Diamond Harbor said:
“My mother and grandmother had so many children; I have six brothers
and sisters of my own (as opposed to cousins). But now the world has
changed, and you cannot do that sort of thing even if you wanted to.”
Did she want to? She says:
“I don’t know, I have two children. I may have had one or two more, but
in today’s world I don’t know.”
Women who have decided to limit births frequently expressed disapproval toward
those they know who had not taken the same decision. These women were seen as


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