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Fortnightly Focus:
“Authors, Issues, Ideas”

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.



In 1940/41 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.

In a 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 change.


Sarah 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 received the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize from the Society of Medical Anthropology


Sarah Pinto speaks about the fascinating Indian dream analysis study that has inspired her new book, exploring relationship between ethics and counter ethics...

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.

Excerpts from an interview of Sarah Pinto published in Firstpost:

What was it about Mrs. A.'s chapter in The Objective Method that fascinated you?

Dr Sanjeev 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.

She 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 and difficult.

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.

Read the full interview


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

Read more:

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.




‘A multilayered and intelligent work.’

Alok Sarin, psychiatrist

‘Exquisitely 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

‘A beautifully crafted work…Pinto’s thoughtful scholarship and elegant writing is in full bloom. A tour de force.’

Tulasi Srinivas, Professor, Emerson College