Saturday, February 18, 2012

Meet Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

If you say Indian mythology guru it is his name that will certainly get recalled.

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.

That a storyteller can redefine a story is a powerful theme especially in the context of mythology/folklore. How did you conceive Hanuman’s Ramayan?
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.


You have woven in pointers on eco friendliness, animal care and even self grooming into the tales- was this a conscious move?
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!!

11 comments:

sathish said...

lovely Art.
thank you Mr. Pattanaik for an thoughtful words.

Choxbox said...

Awesome Art!

'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.' -- food for some serious thought.

There is some serious gender bias in every mythological story I can think of. One of the reasons I would not actively push the whole Indian (or any other) mythology to a kid too early. Gender biases IMO are not about mere political correctness - they actually impact what a little girl might think of herself, especially because it is being endorsed by the gods (like it is in mythology).

Yet to explore the Devlok series, hopefully those will be devoid of these.

Choxbox said...

Oh and we loved Hanuman's Ramayan!

Vibha said...

Great Art. Chox, Hanuman's Ramayana is my favourite too.

artnavy said...

Thanks All.

I agree Chox about the gender bias comment of yours....

utbtkids said...

Wow!

Thanks Dr.Pattanaik and Art!

Teh question on gender bias and Dr.Pattanaik's answer - very through provoking.

Praba Ram said...

Can't wait to see more books for children on the topic of mythology. Like many, I am a huge fan of all your works! Thanks for this lovely interview for ST, with Artnavy!

"There is a child in all of us." :)

"Human values to animal kingdom" - yes, and we're very good at singling out some animals for certain bad traits - greedy, ungrateful, deceitful, cunning..in folklore and fables, mostly. Stereotyping taken a bit far, I guess! Jackals will never be looked upon as good creatures. This tells me may be it's time to cook up some modern myths showing these poor animals in positive light! :))

ssstoryteller said...

Lovely!

My neice is a fan of the series...
got my son to read them...
this mix of reality and mythology, gets the children all curious...and I think what has happened is a re-imagining of the way we tell and /present stories to kids...
Hats off Dr.DP
Thanks ArtNavy

Sangi said...

We own the Devlok series and have made sure to read the ones we don't own. I love the contemporary side of the gods. The illustrations and publishing values rock too.

Thanks for this interview, Art!

sandhya said...

Great interview, Art. We have loved Hanuman's Ramayan and the Devlok series.

In fact, I had recommended the Devlok series (along with the Myth Quest series by Anu Kumar)to a 12 yr old who had reading difficulties, and the child has been hooked to reading (haltingly, yes, but surely) since then. A big thank you for that.

Our mythological stories, however, do become difficult to tell because of the stereotyping, and although I do not believe in sanitising them, I do like to take the opportunity to discuss with A why I think some things were not right in my opinion.:)

Also the reason I feel the need to pick and choose from the vast treasure of stories we have.

artnavy said...

Thanks girls

That is so inspiring Sandhya!

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