Divya Victor

pain comes unsharably into our midst as at once that which cannot be denied                                                                             and that which cannot be confirmed

                                                                   --Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain


All Casebook notes have been copied from the book Confronting the Body: The Politics of Physicality in Colonial and Post-Colonial India, edited by James H. Mills and Satadru Sen, Anthem Press, 2004.

All other appropriated material is from popular nursery rhymes, idioms, mottos and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Titus Andronicus and King Lear.

Parts of this poem have appeared in ixnay reader 3, 2007.


Casebook IA, patient no. 175, 6 March 1882

Lalooie. f. 30. mania. Mussul, Dullal. 6 March 1862
“October. This woman was sent in by City Magistrate, stated to be her first attack of insanity but I had her as a Lunatic patient in the Jail Hospital three years ago…”
“On admission she was very violent and excited, would not wear clothes, tore everything to pieces and struck and bit every body approaching her. It was necessary to put her under restraint, a Blister was applied to the nape of her neck and sharp purgatives administered. Gradually the symptoms began to subside [and] she took to spinning the wheel”

served in a sentence      the whit of knuckles      “How now, nuncle! Would/ had/two coxcombs/ two daughters”      whither to elocute       “How now, nuncle!       Would/ two daughters”     wooden Faber-Castel ruler     “Rapping     at the windows”     something of lentils still     palms flushed      this was a matter  of forgetfulness      and so         a smudge of chalk yelp of flesh      a friend quivers at his desk      quill and rubber      this is so “Rapping at the windows/Crying through the locks”      garlic and milk some ilk of meal under the nails still      “How now/ two daughters”      tremble and plums in the pocket     damp in the pinafore      this is so   how my marrow clogged my bath if I stayed in it too long  “Are the children all in bed?      It is now eight o’ clock”      pairs of lead eyedness one could have wished for arrows but puns escape gaping quivers      “How now/ daughters”       belt about       middle of a riff fretting the portly torso      harboring too many breakfasts       “Be just and fear not” on the buckle    

how my throat flounced to the floor

this too was a matter of forgetfulness         “How now”

* * *


Casebook IA, patient no. 56, 24 September 1860

Mhiboobun. f. mania.
“On admission was very sulky and refused her food. Afterward became violent and tossed about her head and arms, blister was applied and aperient given. Since then has been quieter and takes her food well”

Annual report of the Insane Asylums in Bombay, 1874-1875

“…there were six cases of refusal of food…he had to be fed with the stomach pump regularly for about two months; he was in consequence very much reduced. One day he was accidentally given some beer, which had the desired effect, as he began to eat soon after of his own accord”


much too midnight       capillary braids wicking      the carouse of kerosene      “How came she by that light?/Why it stood by her/light by her/continually”    all yellow and waiting for peels      pitch of stairway and sinking        “Hot cross buns/one a penny”      blow through curtly     this is so      “How came she by   the light?” wracked by comb and there were excuses to be made    “Why it stood/her/by her/continually”      how in darkness my skin noised off the flesh      then mauve mapping      “two a penny/If you have no daughters”         this was   a matter of forgetfulness       and so scald the tenders     bubble      and little hand stubbing numbers “Why/by/her/ continually”    ache custard  from a bowl quietly morsels of sweven song       instead times tables       “If you have no daughters/Give them to your sons”  wattle shoulders hurdled       corners of curds and why      this was a matter of forgetfulness      “How came she by        that light?”       this is so       a cousin’s curls dawdle in the doorway       fenugreek and mint a disquieting elopement lodged in the gall      “If you have no daughters”   “one a penny, two a penny”      trounce and wallop yoke of cotton      mother of pearl buttons       this is so        “by her/continually/by that light”

how my chest held  its leman  

this too was a matter of forgetfulness        “by her/continually”


* * *

Annual Inspection Report of the Dispensaries of Oudh for the year 1872

“I must say I never saw a more happy or contented looking set of lunatics; they work both in the gardens and at the looms with pleasure to themselves…singing blithely at their task”

Annual Report of Lunatic Asylums in Punjab, 1871

“The insane are not slow in sagacity and the power of comprehending what is done for their good and thus will appreciate kindness”

Annual Report of the Insane Asylums in Bombay, 1874-1874

“[Beef] tea was also given by injection through the rectum”


lap swathed        shore of grain and rice  plate rinsed with warm water    this is so      later a group gathers under thatch for the threnody of rain       “‘tween her stumps doth hold/The basin that receives your guilty blood”                     rope and macaroons “Mother may I go to swim?”    how my chin inched away to breathe       chlorine warrants eggs in the hair      and so       scold the towel off      eyelet and hooks      and undoings of small ribbon from the plaits       “‘tween her stumps doth hold” “Yes my darling daughter”       this was a matter                      of forgetfulness     lumps of flour boat in a stew choice cutlery slugging the gills       this is so      “Fold you clothes all neat and trim/But don’t go near the water”      how my feet are glutted into socks in summer      “‘tween her stumps/blood”     larded air    the bulk of monsoon     “Fold/don’t go”      this is so        olio gloss       a neighbor decides against the sugar      shellings conch eratos cowries baby’s ears whelks bleeding tooth ark        “The basin that receives/guilty”        gurgle such dimples off        chunked coconut wrapped in newspaper          fiddle after noon sleep through tea cuff roll and clout     

how my cheek ground aback and into my face   

this too was a matter of forgetfulness       “tween her stumps”

* * *

Letter from the Commissioner of Rawul Pindee to the Punjab Government, 1869

“Dr. Lyons caused an enema to be administered in his own presence to a Pathan prisoner, who pleaded epileptic fits as a reason for not working. Dr. Lyons evidently considered the man to be shamming, and he adopted the enema, knowing it to be the most hateful infliction to a Pathan as a punishment and means of curing him of malingering”
“…enema administered in public, instead of within the patient’s cell or in the hospital”
“The man died three days after”

Report from Dr. Lyons to the Assistant Commissioner of Rawul Pindee, 1869

“ I considered the man was a  malingerer, and applied the most disagreeable treatment appropriate for epilepsy…if the man be really ill the treatment will do him no harm; if he is malingering the treatment will still do him no harm. I ordered the man to have an injection of warm water to clear out his bowels…the Native Doctor reported to me…that he had died about 6 o’clock, and that he did not think he had died from illness, but from grief or shame”

muck about ground flanks     a corner and something squats to eat its carrots          kneecap craters scrape gutters for tadpoles      room for retch in the bucket rag the mouth      “What stern ungentle hands/lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body bare/Of her two branches”     this is so   “One, two” swift ifs sweet tea     “One, two, buckle my shoe”       whip swift knee swot       “lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body bare”     how my shins buck into the wall  and mischief hung about bulbs       this was a matter of forgetfulness      “three, four, knock at the door”     hot rice sits in a tin and sweats till lunch    loaf the halls warbling     and so   “five, six, pick up sticks”     hush and flog    “bare/of her two branches”    all raging mustache and cache crocheted into the bunching socks       “lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body”             how my hands knotted my guts to the pews    this was a matter of forgetfulness     cursive note of ought and could in red                 in the notebooks  kneel and keen near where they come to sharpen the pencils           elbow bandied to hold a tongue    this is so     “seven, eight lay them straight”  strokes “nine ten”     marks of bright pupils  this is so    

how my jaw fluttered open

this too was a matter of forgetfulness  “What stern ungentle hands/made thy body”

* * *


Annual Administration and Progress Reports

 Bombay presidency, 1873-1874
“On a patient being brought to the asylum he or she is placed in a single room for two or three days, well washed, carefully fed, the state and conditions of excretions and secretions examined…”
 Bengal, 1867
“The lunatics…are bathed daily…The dirty and intractable patients are rubbed with mustard oil culee made into a thin paste with water and then washed under the shower bath. This cleanses the skin and leaves it soft, and it is better than soap which makes their skin dry…”
Punjab 1874
“Nothing can prevent entirely some of the most debased of lunatics from being guilty of filthy actions, but they are cleaned and washed and all traces of pollution at once removed”

the stillness of windows    water gars all garb off    broad eyed and perched        dry on the edges of some mouth evidence of breaking bird    “the is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our”     gruel and balking    “What is it she does now? Look, how she rubs her hands”   woolgathering wee bundle scuttles Bata feet   and so   the lashes unfastened      dredge the thing like sull or plough off a mattress    outside the hush of thrashing wheat      “this is the way we brush out teeth, brush our teeth,     brush”         how my ankles ground bone into wet tile   this was a matter of forgetfulness  look to the face              hoary      with fash   vinegar lime vex onions and whinny into the tureen     “Look how she rubs her hands”       this is so    an elder weathers folding laundry         “this is the way we”    mustard dried chillies bay leaf temper      “What is it                                        she does now? Look how she” “comb our hair, comb our hair, this is the way we”

how my scalp scrubbed itself to sleep

this too was a matter of forgetfulness     “how she rubs her hands”