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January 14, 2015

#VerveBookClub: Devdutt Pattanaik

Conceptualised by Natasha Sahjwani and compiled by Simone Louis

“We refashion old stories to make new dishes. Nothing really changes: wisdom, love, victory, heartbreak!” Devdutt Pattanaik speaks about mythology, queerness and his book, Shikhandi and Other tales They Don’t Tell You

Over and above being the chief belief officer of the Future Group and a guru in entrepreneurship, branding and leadership, Devdutt Pattanaik is a passionate mythologist who has written over 25 popular books and 400 articles. It came as no surprise, then, that there was undeniable excitement in the Twitter cosmos when the author readied his thumbs for a quick online interview with Verve. Ardent fans re-tweeted, favourited and debated as Pattanaik skillfully answered questions about his book, Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You, his opinions on success, life lessons and future plans. All those who missed it — we’ve put the thought-provoking Twitter conversation together for you. Happy reading!

Q (@SimoneArista): What sort of research did you do in order to write Shikhandi… with such great detail? 
@devduttmyth: 20 years of research. 30 books. 400 articles. A lot of years 🙂

Q: Wow, that’s amazing! What was the inspiration behind this book? Was there an ‘aha!’ moment?
@devduttmyth:
The ‘aha!’ was the realisation that so few people, even scholars, did not know these queer stories.

Q: Is queerness also existent in mythology other than Indian mythology?
@devduttmyth: 
Not in the scale that we find in India. And in different forms. For example, man-boy sex is present in Greek mythology.

Q: In that case, why do you think these stories are often overlooked in India?
@devduttmyth: 
We see what we want to see, not what we are shown. We are told to do ‘darshan‘, but we prefer to shut our eyes.

Q: Have you received feedback about your work changing someone’s perspective on queerness? 
@devduttmyth: Many people felt validated and acknowledged, while many got sanction to allow people to be true to their feelings.

Q: Is there any new mythology emanating from classic myths?
@devduttmyth: We refashion old stories to make new dishes. Nothing really changes: wisdom, love, victory, heartbreak!

Q: What role does ritual play in mythology? Or vice versa?
@devduttmyth: A ritual is a choreographed story… thus, a birthday party is a ritual to express the end of one year and the start of another.

@vervemagazine: Verve’s @SimoneArista is interacting with author and mythologist @devduttmyth LIVE. Got a question? Send it in now! #VerveBookClub

Q: Throughout your research, what has been your greatest or most interesting discovery?
@devduttmyth: Subjectivity — we, as humans, are afraid of our own truths…we prefer outsourced ‘the’ truth.

Q: What do you hope to achieve or change with this book?
@devduttmyth: Achievement = Greek myth. Desire to convert people = Abrahamic myth. Delusion = Indian myth.

Q: What more can we expect from you this year?
@devduttmyth: Gita ! My first work on philosophy…

@vervemagazine: @devduttmyth @SimoneArista We’re looking forward to it! 🙂

@vervemagazine: And we’re done! Thank you @devduttmyth for taking out time for #VerveBookClub. Looking forward to hearing from you at #ZeeJLF and more!

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