A Conversation with Bestselling Author, Devdutt Pattanaik
Devdutt Pattanaik is a renowned author, speaker, illustrator and mythologist. He has authored over 30 books; many of them bestsellers, which articulate numerous Hindu mythologies in a way that the majority can understand. We interviewed Devdutt who also has a mythological approach to management and leadership, to find out about his work and his most recent book, which is for children and entitled Pashu.
Welcome to e-Books India, Devdutt! We are thrilled to have you join us for this interview. Many authors dream of writing full time, but at the start they usually have a day job, which might not be their true passion, but is required to pay the bills. You of course, are a trained doctor who left this profession to move onto writing full time. Please tell us a bit about your experiences with making this transition?
After medicine, I worked in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, not as a clinical but more as a corporate guy – focussed on communication, training, marketing and sales. Mythology was a hobby that I did on the side until it became so popular that I did not have to work anymore to pay my bills. Mythology became full time. A large point of this transition I owe to Mr. Kishore Biyani of Future Group who believed mythology had a great role to play in business and management, especially consumer insights and eventually employee insights.
In terms of writing, you write books about mythology. Please tell us a bit about how this interest in mythology came about and in particular what made you want to write books in this area?
As a child I was always interested in mythology. But it transformed from hobby to a writing passion when I realized the gap in the quality of books: some were basic, meant only for children and others were intense meant only for scholars. There was nothing to bridge the two. That is how my writing began, which was focused on helping people see the depth of mythology without being boringly academic.
Your most recent book is entitled Pashu and is a children’s book. Can you please tell us a bit about it?
Animals play a key role in Hindu mythology, more than any other mythology in the world. Yet, we know so little about them. This book is about sharing with everyone the vast world of animals found in the Puranas – the notion of how they are born of different mothers and share the same father as humans.
Have you had any particular positive review or comment sent from a youngster, or parent who enjoyed Pashu? What did they have to say about it?
I think parents are enjoying it more than children for it allows them to learn what they did not when they were children. So they can become children again with their own children. A nice way to bond. It is not like animal fables of Jatakas and Panchatantra – there are no lessons or messages here, just an understanding of how the world was imagined by our ancestors.
How important do you think it is to teach young people about mythology?
Whether we teach them or not, every person will imagine the world differently. By sharing our mythology we influence that imagination. If parents wish to influence the imagination of their children with their own imagination and the imagination of their ancestors, they need to tell mythological stories.
Can you please share 3 top tips for writers who want to write nonfiction books about mythology?
1. Write, write, write.
2. Focus on understanding and sharing more than preaching.
3. Don’t try to justify or defend your favourite characters.