Interview with Devdutt Pattanaik
Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik – Mythology Simplifier
An Indian medical doctor, who became a storyteller of the ancient myth and took up writing on mythology as a hobby- Devdutt Pattanaik has penned down many books including interesting stories on mythology for children. We got a chance to interview him and talk about his books for children.
Q1. A medical doctor writing on mythology- what made you become a storyteller of ancient myth?
This was a hobby that has become more than a hobby over time.
Q2. There are so many writers who have written stories on mythology for children. How are you and your stories different from them?
I don’t intend to be different. I just write stories that I enjoy. More than stories, I am interested in the thought underlying stories which I love to communicate.
Q3. How important, according to you, is to bring the lives of Gods in the world of children? Does this have any effect or meaning in their lives?
Stories shape our lives, whether we want to or not. As humans, we are constantly creating and communicating stories. Some stories have supernatural elements. Some do not. Stories enable us to believe there is more to life than just eating and sleeping.
Q4. You come with varied ideas- like Shiva playing dumb charades or Kama fighting with Yama in order to win Jayshree’s friendship, or the talking cow. Where do you get these ideas from?
I break a story down to its essential elements and then reframe them using a simple everyday event. We tend to exoticise and make gods distant. But traditionally in India, gods are part of everyday experience. They are friends who we create.
Q5. Were you, as a child, interested in mythology? Who instilled this interest in you?
I realized my interest in mythology much later in life, after medicine actually. No one instilled it. It emerged rather organically.
Q6. According to you, which is your favourite story that you have written for children? Why?
I have no favourite stories. I love them all.
Q7. Why do you think mythology works well for children? Is it really important for them to know about the numerous Gods in the country?
I don’t think its just children. Everyone loves stories. Some stories have gods in them. Some don’t. We like characters who are supernatural, different from others, like superheroes and wizards. They fill our lives with enchantment. Every human seeks enchantment in life. Otherwise life becomes mechanistic and meaningless and dry.
Q8. What values do you want to project from your books that children can infuse in their everyday lives? Do you consciously put these values in your stories and build your tale around them?
That sounds like using stories for propaganda and manipulation. I don’t think that is a good idea at all. Children observe parents and create their own values. I don’t think they care so much for what parents tell them, certainly not stories.
Q9. Who is your favourite mythological character? Why?
I don’t have any favourite mythological character. All are parts of a great jigsaw puzzle and each one unique and exciting.
Q10. What is the most interesting question a kid has asked you?
Why does cartoon Krishna always beat up people on television? I think he is a bully.
Q11. Your books for children link their lives with mythological tales. Why did you choose this style rather than telling a straight story of myth?
Because life is based on myth. Our notions of life, death, achievement, heaven, hell, good, bad, weekday, weekend, holiday, all comes from myth. We are just unaware of it.
Q12. What’s next in store for kids?
My Puffin book: Pashu, animal tales from Hindu mythology.
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