My Life as a Psychiatrist: Memoirs and Essays
Foreword by Ashis Nandy
demy octavo hb 220pp ISBN 81-85604-92-4 Rs 550 Published Feb 2010
At the age of 12 or 13, Ajita Chakraborty read Moner Khela (The Mind’s Games) by Bijoylal Chattopadhyay, who interpreted the characters of many fictional characters through psychoanalysis, resulting in a lifelong fascination and commitment to psychiatry. As one of the first woman psychiatrists in India, now in her eighties, Chakraborty looks back at her life and work, talking frankly about herself, her unconventional family and the 'confusions' of her childhood that propelled her to becoming a psychiatrist.
Qualified as a doctor, she sailed to England in 1952, to further her medical education, taking courses in psychiatry and working in British mental hospitals for almost ten years, and also obtaining qualifications such as DPM and MRCP. She returned to India in 1960, where modern psychiatry was still a fledgling, considered as subordinate to other medical specializations. As one of the first woman in the field she faced considerable hostility and opposition, and saw her dreams of setting up an advanced department of psychiatry and elevating its then lowly status, fail. Indeed the book throws considerable light on the sociology on medicine and discusses why Chakraborty and her friends who had returned with medical qualifications gained abroad were thwarted in their attempts to set up a modern health system. Of considerable interest is Chakraborty's discussion on why psychiatry taught in the West cannot be applied directly in other cultures, emphasizing the need and significance of transcultural psychology in postcolonial societies.
The second part of the book offers a selection from her essays, published in various distinguished journals, which are indeed an essential part of the book as they illustrate in 'theoretical and concrete terms what is dealt with anecdotally and personally in the memoirs'.
Born in 1926, Ajita Chakraborty specialized in psychiatry, retiring as professor of the Department of Neurology and later director of the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER), Calcutta. She was president of the Indian Psychiatric Society and is fellow, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Edinburgh and London.
Ashis Nandy, one of India’s most distinguished scholars, is a Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.
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