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C h a p t e r 4 On Dissociation A fissure opens in a once silent body and from it flows an unstoppable, uncontainable speaking as we cast our bodies without thinking into space. —Elizabeth Dempster, ‘‘Women Writing the Body: Let’s Watch a Little How She Dances’’ (1995) The psychiatry unit of Nehru Government Hospital was at the edge of a large campus, just beyond the traffic of a busy thoroughfare. Not far from the old city, Nehru gave a sense of being in the dense middle of things, of having arrived at a center. Through grand gates, its main buildings were reached via a driveway lined with lawns on which families set up temporary shelters—tents, beds, and makeshift kitchens. Here were Nehru’s oldest buildings, their cupolas and domes recognizable as signs of the city’s fading stature. Across the road pulsing with food vendors, barbers, dogs, and rickshaws , the psychiatry unit was behind a brick wall, through an inconspicuous vine-covered gate. The unit was a gathering of buildings of varying ages embodying eras of psychiatric care. The newest building, just inside the gate, contained the emergency ward, administrative offices, doctors’ offices, classrooms, and a library. The outpatient clinic, a short walk away, was a humble single-story structure with an ample courtyard, reached by a path lined by wild growth—flowers, bushes, trees, and towering marijuana plants (which a resident said must have grown from a laborer’s unfinished joint). Between the outpatient unit and the road, the neurology building occupied a crisply new structure, its metal and concrete entrance a shiny announcement of 154 Chapter 4 modern science. Farther back was a decrepit building that had once housed Nehru’s original psychiatry unit. A building of several levels with a colonial feel, its shuttered windows and doorways led off verandas into dark rooms and hallways piled with broken plaster, brick, and trash. Though it felt uninhabited and many of its rooms were empty and locked, it contained social workers’ and occupational therapists’ offices. Nehru, one of the city’s three large institutions for psychiatric care, was also the city’s oldest and most prestigious medical college. Though I began pursuing research there around the time I started working in Moksha, accomplishing clearance was slow bureaucratic work. This was in stark contrast with the absence of procedures that—disturbingly—made entry into Moksha easy and instant. Whereas Moksha was often empty, and doctors could either welcome you into their offices or make you wait for hours, the doctors at Nehru had packed days, busy hours filled to the minute with a routine of activity. Finding a time to see them was difficult, but a few moments spent in the crowded hallways made this understandable. Once an appointment was earned (and once I learned how to bypass the aggressive gatekeepers who manned doctors’ doorways) I became part of their schedule and never waited for long. I met with senior physicians and passed through Nehru’s human subjects review process, instructed that on every page of my application I should write ‘‘Through Proper Channels.’’ After months of waiting, news that I had received clearance came, but only after my return to India from the United States. Though approval had been granted a month earlier, there was confusion about who was to inform me. After a month in Boston trying not to put down exhausted roots, I settled Eve into American life and returned to India, hoping to begin work in Nehru, but uncertain when and if this would happen. Winter was over. Holi had passed, the spring festival of raucous color marking the approach of summer giving way to increasingly parched anticipations of monsoon. On my return, I passed through Delhi in a matter of hours and spent a jet-lagged week tying up loose ends, figuring out who was still around, who had left town, who was sick and could not meet, who had returned or was now ready to work with me. My nights were soaked with whiskey in attempts to find sleep. The roughest hours were the warming dark of early morning. During the day, I raced around making appointments and locating contacts, but as the day dimmed, I began a descent into the raggedness of failed sleep. On Dissociation 155 I had only been away for a month, but much seemed changed. People I had been working with were gone. Efforts to make appointments failed...


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MARC Record
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