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Daughters of Parvati

Daughters of Parvati: Women and Madness in Contemporary India

Sarah Pinto
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Daughters of Parvati
    Book Description:

    In her role as devoted wife, the Hindu goddess Parvati is the divine embodiment ofviraha, the agony of separation from one's beloved, a form of love that is also intense suffering. These contradictory emotions reflect the overlapping dissolutions of love, family, and mental health explored by Sarah Pinto in this visceral ethnography.Daughters of Parvaticenters on the lives of women in different settings of psychiatric care in northern India, particularly the contrasting environments of a private mental health clinic and a wing of a government hospital. Through an anthropological consideration of modern medicine in a nonwestern setting, Pinto challenges the dominant framework for addressing crises such as long-term involuntary commitment, poor treatment in homes, scarcity of licensed practitioners, heavy use of pharmaceuticals, and the ways psychiatry may reproduce constraining social conditions. Inflected by the author's own experience of separation and single motherhood during her fieldwork,Daughters of Parvatiurges us to think about the ways women bear the consequences of the vulnerabilities of love and family in their minds, bodies, and social worlds.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0928-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on Transliterations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Love and Affliction
    (pp. 1-38)

    January in north India is a strange kind of cold for someone used to Boston winters, to piercing air and eclipsing snowfalls. It is milder, but demands more effort—spreading quilts, seeking sunlight, finding warmth outdoors. On such mornings, after wiping the dust off my daughter’s mary janes, disciplining a scarf around her braids, and seeing her to school, I set off for a chilly interior, a space heavy with the difference between inside and outside. In a locked inpatient unit of a small, private psychiatric clinic, I visited with a woman I call Sanjana, a middle-class housewife about my...

  5. Chapter 1 Rehabilitating Ammi
    (pp. 39-77)

    In October, on the eighth day of the festival Navratri, Mrs. M. called Eve to her dining room. Today was Kanya Puja, a day to worship young girls as the goddess, to feed them sweet things. Instead of taking from our hands the leftovers of deities’ feasts, they would eat first and we would take what they left.

    The children had strung doll-sized banners of mango leaves under the eaves of the knee-high temple next to the driveway. A red streak of vermilion dashed the stone cobra inside. That morning I put on accordion music and French songs, mixed eggs...

  6. Chapter 2 On Dissolution
    (pp. 78-116)

    Moksha is the name I have given to a small, private psychiatric clinic on the edge of the city.Mokshameans liberation, with a touch of transcendence, depending on your soteriology. The name’s irony is my effort to capture the unkindness of the clinic’s real name, in which the idea of surpassing freedom abutted the most basic fact of life in the wards—immanent containment. Moksha was established in the early 1990s by a psychiatrist with an interest in providing mental health care in a nonhospital setting, and a vision of incorporating religion into therapeutics. Patients would be encouraged to...

  7. Chapter 3 Moksha and Mishappenings
    (pp. 117-152)

    Some days in the ward we pick stones out of rice, a task so common to Indian women’s kitchen worlds that it has its own verb. I sit on the floor with Pooja, Sanjana, Riti, and Isma. The rice arrives from the kitchen in a plastic bag. Pooja pours it onto plates, one for each person. The sound of grains on metal is like a shower of tiny bells, loud in the sleepy hush. We lean over, bodies reaching earthward, fingers walking through shifting dunes. Our eyes fall on flashes of gray. Our fingertips catch something sharp. A husk. A...

  8. Chapter 4 On Dissociation
    (pp. 153-198)

    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...

  9. Chapter 5 Making a Case
    (pp. 199-237)

    Among the many scenarios Eve and her friends enacted in their play, the most popular wasshadi—wedding. Transforming mydupattasinto 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 ashadi-mad world, for Eve, becoming a north Indian kid meant learning to play wedding; learning the...

  10. Chapter 6 Ethics of Dissolution
    (pp. 238-262)

    One afternoon, Mrs. P. phoned Mrs. M. to invite us to a talk at the university by a feted alumnus, a psychiatrist relocated to the United States, where he now held a high position in a professional psychiatric organization. Arriving late, we were ushered into the packed room and shown to seats at the front as the lengthy introductions got under way. The speaker introduced his topic—threats that modernity posed to mental health. The force of his argument fell on divorce and the impact of rising divorce rates on mental well-being. The United States, a country he described as...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-272)
  12. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 281-283)