We are immensely pleased to have the iconic Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik here at ST.
This Q&A is in the context of the books he has penned for children and a bit more. His answers are as thought provoking and refreshing as his large and growing body of work.
We have known you as an author for adults. How was writing for kids different?
Not different really. It is just that with children you have to focus on one idea and go on elaborating it using visuals that are more fun. Honestly, I realize, adults like this too. There is a child in all of us.
I retell the story. Redefine assumes you can change the soul of the story. I change the narration, the flesh, so that the modern mind can understand the soul better. So the story of Hanuman’s Ramayan is a very old folklore. Most people don't know it so they assume it is ‘new’.
How did the Fun in Devlok series evolve? In the series, there is no story on Hanuman and Ganesh - aren't they among children's favourite Gods?
Favorites come and go. I am interested in helping children appreciate the idea that has been part of Indian culture for centuries. For that stories are important. And there are gods in some of these stories. Fun in Devlok is about looking at gods as part of our lives, participating in our joys and sorrows, without stripping them of their dignity, without being irreverential, and without turning them into strange violent superheroes, who beat up and bully bad guys.
Aren’t these part of life? Haven't they always been part of human life? I never instruct. I just tell stories and hope children appreciate the values seeping out of them.
The illustrations by Vishal Tandon are lively and support the story well - since you are an illustrator yourself, how did the collaboration work?
I like collaborating with artists with whom my energies match. Vishal was great fun. He studies art at Shantiniketan and was excited as this was a new avenue for him too.
Mythological stories sometimes promote irrelevant values/ gender bias. Your comments? How do we expose our children to these stories?
Every story has a bias and a prejudice embedded into it. Without bias and prejudice you cannot have stories.
Animals are not supposed to talk yet we make them talk and humanize them in our fables. That is unnatural. We make non-vegetarian animals villains and we apply human values to animal kingdom. That is also unnatural.
At one time, Disney women were coquette damsels needing rescue; now they are boisterous and violent just like the ‘boys’. Is that gender equality?
If you try to be politically correct, you will never tell a story to your child. There is no nobility in humanity from the point of view of a plant or an animal.
Are there live reading and narrations planned by you for children across India? If yes, when and where can we find the info on this?
No, I don’t do that. I prefer parents telling stories to their children. They are the most influential storytellers. You must not outsource this aspect of parenting, in my view.
The Talking Thali was an interesting post from you. Can you see a book in the making around this subject?
Yes, hopefully, someday.
What else are you penning for children?
Wait and watch :-D
Thanks a lot Dr. Pattanaik for your time and views!!