As our physical world continues to remain restricted,
largely out of bounds, and we all look for different ways to stay
connected to the people we love and the things we love to do, Women
Unlimited brings your favourite authors and their writings a little
closer to you, our dedicated community of readers. We present
Fortnightly Favourites: Authors, Issues, Ideas, a focus on an author,
an issue or an idea that we explore through our books.
THE MYSTERIES OF DREAMS
ABOUT THE BOOK:
a young Punjabi woman, ‘Mrs A.’, ill at
ease in her marriage and eager for personal and national freedom, sat
down with psychiatrist, Dev Satya Nand, for an experiment in his new
method of dream analysis. Her analysis included a surge of emotion and
reflections on sexuality, gender, marriage, ambition, trauma, and
mythology. She turned to archetypal female figures from Hindu
myth—Shakuntala, Draupadi, Ahalya—to reimagine her social world and its
ethical arrangements, envisioning a future beyond marriage, colonial
rule, and gendered constraints.
brilliant reading of Mrs A.’s conversations with Dr Satya Nand, the
author opens a window onto gender and sexuality in late colonial Indian
society, and the ways in which Mrs A. put ethics in motion, creating
alternatives to ideals of belonging, recognition,and consciousness.
Through a fascinating exposition, Pinto proposes the possibility of
thinking with a concept of ‘counter-ethics’, and asks what perspectives
on gender, power, meaning, and imagination are possible from the
position of the counter-ethic, and its orientation towards mobility and
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Pinto is Professor of Anthropology at Tufts University, and author
of Where There is no
Midwife: Birth and Loss in Rural India (2008), and Daughters of
Parvati: Women and Madness in Contemporary India (2012), which
the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize from the Society of Medical
INTERVIEW WITH SARAH PINTO:
Pinto speaks about the fascinating Indian dream analysis study that has
inspired her new book, exploring relationship between ethics and
The Doctor & Mrs A. is culled from
conversations between Satya Nand and 'Mrs. A.', with a fascinating
exploration of the relationship between ethics and counter ethics.
from an interview of Sarah Pinto published in Firstpost:
What was it about Mrs. A.'s chapter in The
Objective Method that fascinated you?
Jain, who had found the obscure book, had mentioned that it contained a
case with a fascinating love triangle and that the case’s subject was
an unexpected kind of figure – someone whose ideas about gender,
sexuality, and personal independence were progressive and bold for her
time. When I managed to get my hands on the text, I found, of course,
that he was correct, but I also discovered that this was an intimate
portrayal of psychoanalysis in action, one that diverged from what I
thought I knew about the history of psychoanalysis and, especially, its
relationship to women. Mrs. A. was an active, and at times contentious,
analysand – she challenged Satya Nand’s ideas, told him where he had
gotten her analysis wrong, and brought her own interesting and original
ideas to the case.
reflected on her love affairs and longings with such freshness and
candour, including thoughts on homosexuality, nostalgia about romances
before marriage, and reflections on marital sexuality. Her voice feels
very real and approachable in a text that is, otherwise, rather dense
When Mrs. A. and Dev Satya Nand met, the partition
of India was looming. Concepts of Independence led to Mrs. A. attaching
her personal dilemmas about marriage and freedom with national ones.
How do you view the significance of this?
One of the
things I love about this text is its timing – just on the verge of
Independence, not there yet but close enough to be infused by a sense
of freedom. To me, Mrs. A.’s case is a story about grappling with the
stakes and possibilities of freedom, what it means to be contained and
what it means to step out of that containment and build something new.
There is apprehension, as well as excitement, which strikes me as very
human, and also a sense that freedom from the colonial rule may not
necessarily mean freedom from patriarchal realities for women, or
freedom from poverty for the rural poor – that there will be work to
do, new freedoms to accomplish. That this was projected in the near
future – not a distant future, but not an imminent one either – is also
important. At the same time, it is jarring, sad, and strange to imagine
that this conversation happened, in all likelihood, in Lahore, or
possibly Amritsar, and to know what would soon come to be and yet see
no shadow of it in all that hope and imagination.
the full interview
IN HER OWN WORDS—SARAH PINTO:
This talk explores
Mrs A.’s case and the mythic landscapes she entered for the ways they
put ethics in motion, finding repertoires for the creative
transformation of ideals and highlighting self-conscious and effortful
work to enliven forms typically engaged for their durability.
... an unusual, convincing, and sonorously spoken
pedagogy of reading psychoanalysis under colonialism.
— The Book Review
The Doctor and Mrs A. is a stark reminder that
feminism is not a term derived from the West. It is a yearning women
are born with — to be their truest self and honour all that their heart
and mind wish for.
FROM THE PAGES OF THE DR AND MRS A.
PRAISE FOR THE DOCTOR AND MRS A.:
multilayered and intelligent work.’
—Alok Sarin, psychiatrist
lucid, composed in the flow of dreaming spaces, issuing a summons into
thinking with all the characters, with the author’s third person
persona enacting a leading role as well, The Doctor and Mrs A. is an
utter charismatic delight.’
—Geeta Patel, Professor, University of Virginia
beautifully crafted work…Pinto’s thoughtful scholarship and elegant
writing is in full bloom. A tour de force.’
—Tulasi Srinivas, Professor, Emerson College