The Dr & MrsA-cover.jpg

 

Title: The Doctor and Mrs A.: Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis

Author: Sarah Pinto

Publisher: Women Unlimited, 2019

Links: Women Unlimited

 

In the early 1940s, Mrs A. was a young housewife, three years married. She was unsettled, ill at ease in her new home, in what should have been a comfortable, secure life during a heady time. War was still on, the young men of her city and its surrounding countryside offered up as the rank and file in the British Army. Friends were away fighting, and those who were not debated their country’s future and wondered which vision of society would shape it. Her hero, Jawaharlal Nehru, was in prison, which upset her greatly.

When she met with Dev Satya Nand, an army doctor training young psychiatrists to serve on the front lines, he noted her demeanour with affection. Care and enthusiasm overrode clinical reserve. In his eyes, she was cultivated but aloof, empathetic but intimidating, tall and imposing yet timid and ‘tender’, ‘pensive and thoughtful from early school days’. Her contradictions were endearing, making her, perhaps, an ideal analysand, self-aware and reflective, yet mysterious, at times opaque. He wrote:

A beautiful fair-complexioned, dignified and artistically dressed, cultured and well-educated girl. She was taller than the average Indian girl, and attracted attention, as well as commanded respect wherever she was introduced. With large tender eyes, and refined tastes she could charm and even allure when she liked to do so. She was of a trusting nature, confiding and popular with the rich as well as with the poor.

At times she was dreamy and prone to be absent-minded now and then. But at others she would be the very life of a party, and could entertain very well.

By Sameer Arshad Khatlani

Poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal’s “tremendous work”, wrote German writer Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), belonged to the world of Islam apart from two other domains of the worlds of India, and of Western thought. In his book Incarnations, academic Sunil Khilnani echoes Hesse and notes that Iqbal (1877-1938) was “deeply engaged with the histories, themes, and conflicts embedded in Islamic thought and in literary traditions that fired his imagination”.

Islam was certainly an important theme of Iqbal’s poetry. But he also wrote about important figures of other religions glowingly in the spirit of his famous couplet: “Mazhab nahin sikhata aapas mei bair rakhna, Hindi hai ham vatan hai Hindustan hamara”*. “Hai Ram ke vajud pe Hindustan ko naaz, ahl-e-nazar samajhte hain is ko imam-e-hind,’’** wrote Iqbal, highlighting the reverence a vast majority of Indians treated Lord Ram with.

But of all the non-Islamic religious icons, Iqbal perhaps wrote most admiringly about Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, whom he hailed as “mard-e kaamil [perfect man]”. His poem titled Nanak starts with a lament that “our people paid no heed to the message of Gautam [Buddha]”; did not recognise the worth of that “jewel of supreme wisdom”. It then refers to Nanak and says the perfect man “awakened Hind [India] from a deep slumber”.

by Neera Kashyap

Ikk ōnkār satināmu karatā puraku nirapǎ’u niraver akāl mūrat ajūnī sepàng gurprasād*

Kartar Kaur murmured words from the holy book under her breath, aware both of their sacredness and the constriction in her throat that refused to leave. Sometimes she could continue repeating the mantra without a break but mostly she would falter, grope for the next phrase and lose it in the shortness of breath. Even when the repetition went on for a while, her mind struggled to invoke onkar, the one constant. For the one constant remained Harpreet …her Harpreet…who had disappeared without a trace twelve years ago. A ‘suspected militant’ was all that remained of his identity. Except in her heart…her gentle son, a poet at heart, a philosopher in his soul.

The festivals and festivities of the village had long ceased to interest both her and Gurmeet Singh since the disappearance. They no longer went anywhere, and nobody asked. She knew that many mothers had lost their sons in that terrible decade following the desecration of their holiest shrine, Sri Darbar Sahib. But at least they knew their sons had been killed by the police or was in their custody. Their families had been able to establish it through investigation, through law courts, through eye witnesses.

There were some mothers who had not known. Like Kartar Kaur, Bibi Baljit had been clueless about her son Hazara Singh’s whereabouts. But ten years after his disappearance, she had learnt from the formal investigations ordered by the Supreme Court into these disappearances, that he had been cremated by the police at the Durgiana mandir crematorium in Amritsar — his name identifiable in black and white in the crematorium records.

khushwantsinghSo this is where Khushwant went each evening after shooing us away. This is where he went after ensuring I had downed at least two stiff glasses of Black Label whiskey while he nursed his stiffer one glass in his living room a wee bit longer. This is where he retired, leaving the ever-flowing entourage of friends, not-so-friends, publicity-collectors, hangers-on, users, book-squeezers, admirers and disciples to their own devices.

So this is where he disappeared.