restricted access 5. Making a Case
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C h a p t e r 5 Making a Case The dream acquitted me of responsibility for Irma’s condition by showing that it was due to other factors—it produced a whole series of reasons. —Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (2010 [1901]) Among the many scenarios Eve and her friends enacted in their play, the most popular was shadi—wedding. Transforming my dupattas into saris, turbans, and dhotis, expertly folding, pleating, tucking, and wrapping, they played bride, groom, and priest, hosted ceremonies, songs, and the sobbing departures of new brides on my balcony, painted magic marker patterns on each other’s arms, offered leaf garlands, and took turns at walking around a ‘‘fire’’ of unlit sticks. The brides took turns touching a lucky groom’s feet. In a shadi-mad world, for Eve, becoming a north Indian kid meant learning to play wedding; learning the complex actions and obligations of a wedding was part of the work of childhood. In the final month of my work, long after Eve, back in the United States, had forgotten the rules of shadi, I spent days dense with busy interaction in the hallways, wards, and offices of Nehru. It was hot, and my memories of that time have a background of sound—the roar of helicopter-like ceiling fans. Those days were bookended by sweaty rushes to make the quickest transition from one shared auto to the next along a series of linked routes home. Whereas earlier months felt given over to forces beyond my reach, memories of this last month are now laced with the pounding regret that comes with bad decisions, though at the time I felt exhilaration. I had gone 200 Chapter 5 home again for several weeks and then returned, again without Eve. But the peace of mind I felt on returning to India in the previous trip had given way to frightening groundlessness. This time, the man I had become involved the year before was also in the city. Eight months of purposeful forgetting was undone, and my fall back into a relationship with a person I knew I disliked—a relationship that I allowed myself to think would bring security and release from the difficulties of a dissolving marriage—proved instead to be a source of ever-expanding insecurity, of anxiety and odd jealousies that felt cultivated through little acts. Other women might have withstood it all with fortitude, even humor, or walked away. I did neither. Though it seems crazy now, there was hope in this recklessness. My work proceeded at a breakneck pace. Notebooks filled with reams of observations. But evenings were consumed by sickening waves of panic, a sink of deception and self-deception, lies so consuming I could feel them like sharp stones in my chest. I began to experience vertigo. A memory of Eve or reminder of the fresh wounds of my still undoing marriage— mention of a book or song or place—set off rushes of dizziness. Unlike when I was working in Moksha and mixed personal reflections with the things I was seeing there, now thoughts about my circumstances did not easily meld with field notes. I needed to separate them out, to hold one thing apart from the other lest competing truths about who I was and who I wanted to be collide. I kept different files for each. Where notes from Nehru are overabundant with energy, frantic with people and details, my personal notes from that month are sparse and evidently unhappy. I was at once aware of the darkness of all this and strangely accepting. I wrote with resignation, as though I had chosen a path I could not leave. All of that eventually ended—I could and did step away—but not yet, and it now seems fitting that I should have spent those final weeks contemplating love and madness at Nehru while feeling around me growing disorientation, loss of a sense of what was right or true, and unwarranted resignation to what was unbearable. Things seemed to be changing in the city, too. One evening, on our way back from the center of town, as we turned off the main road into our neighborhood—normally a relief of shade and birdsong—a motorcycle pulled alongside our cycle rickshaw. It slowed down just long enough for the driver to reach across, grab, and painfully twist my breast. It took me a moment to realize what had happened, what the stinging...


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Subject Headings

  • Psychiatry -- India -- History -- 21st century.
  • Women -- Mental health services -- India.
  • Psychiatric hospitals -- India.
  • Mentally ill women -- Care -- India.
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