Category Archives: Devdutt Pattanaik

The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Girl who Chose - A new way of narrating the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: The Girl who chose: A new way of narrating the Ramayana
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin Books, Puffin
ISBN: 9780143334637
Genre: Mythology, Children’s Fiction
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

So I was a fan of Devdutt Pattanaik’s books when I first read “The Pregnant King”. It was in 2007 or 2008 I think. I remember calling him and chatting with him for hours about it. Maybe that is also one of the reasons why we turned out to be good friends. But that has got nothing to do with the review of his latest book “The Girl who chose – A new way of narrating the Ramayana”. I was waiting for this book since forever. Why? Because I think if you are going to tell a mythological tale for children in a different manner, then I sure would like to know about it.

“The Girl who chose” is about Sita and her five choices and how they impact Ramayana and everyone else in the story. This isn’t Devdutt’s spin or take. It is just an interpretation given what happens in Ramayana. It is about sometimes things being planned out even before you can think about them or about the choices actually that you make and its consequences.

This book is about Sita for sure, but it is also about the other central and not-so-central characters of the Ramayana. The illustrations by the author himself make the book something else. Devdutt’s illustrations are simple. They are easy to comprehend and perhaps one doesn’t even need text while deciphering them. The illustrations speak a language of their own.

I also would like to add here that there is no feminist angle in this book, so don’t be fooled by the title. It is a given that like any other human being, Sita had the power to choose and she made the choices that she did. For a children’s book it perhaps may not come across so clearly, but the understated meaning can be inferred. The tale of the Ramayana always depends on Sita – on what she does, because it is ultimately she who leads the story. No one else has that kind of power in this Indian epic.

Devdutt Pattanaik does it again – simply and with a lot of brevity. He takes on portions of the Ramayana and serves it to you in bite-sized nuggets. The footnotes with additional information only enhance the reading experience. This is a great start for children to know and understand Indian mythology. I think it is the perfect book to gift a child to expand his or her horizons about Ramayana which has been passed down from generation to generation.

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7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik

7 Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: 7 Secrets of the Goddess
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Westland Books
ISBN: 9789384030582
Genre: Mythology, Religion
Pages: 270
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Whenever Devdutt Pattanaik writes a book, it is to be marveled on. Not because of anything else, but because of the way he makes mythology readable. In fact, according to me he is perhaps one of the first mythological writers who made readers, go out and pick up books on The Mahabharata or The Ramayana.

And this time he is back with his latest book, “7 Secrets of the Goddess”. This follows in line with his earlier books, “7 Secrets of Shiva” and “7 Secrets of Vishnu”. This time it is about the Goddess. It is about all of the Goddesses and this is what led me to read the book. I loved the concept of it not being restricted to one Goddess, after all each of them is a manifestation of the other, so there cannot be one without the other anyway.

Devdutt explores mythology and religion differently than how his counterparts do. While the book is heavy on the names and incidents, the reading is lightened by the fact that not at one single moment, you feel that the writing is pedantic. What the book also manages to do is reveal the sides of humanity and nature. There is always a balance there or perhaps it should be there and that is what is hinted at throughout.

“7 Secrets of the Goddess” has all the nuances of Devdutt’s writing. From his illustrations to easy-to-understand narrative, the chapters break-up in fact help the reader comprehend the book better, without it seeming to be an academic read. The book speaks of male and female domination. It explores gender quality and rituals of Hindu Mythology like never before. To a very large extent, this read will not only open your mind to mythology and its various aspects, but perhaps will also make you see humanity in a different light.

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Shikhandi and Other Tales they Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don't Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Zubaan and Penguin Books
ISBN: 9789383074846
Genre: Mythology
Pages: 176
Source: Pubisher
Rating: 5/5

There is so much to Indian Mythology that remains hidden. There is so much which no one speaks of. Of hidden desires (maybe), of stories that somehow do not surface, because we are too civilized for our own good. We are full of shackles and intimidation and fear and to top it all ego, which do not let us realize our true selves. Somewhere down the line, perhaps, we have also been too apologetic of our traditions and culture – first to the British and Europeans and then to ourselves. The stories need to be told to change perspectives. The answers need to be out there with the questions, so people can decide for themselves without being brainwashed. “Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t Tell you” by Devdutt Pattanaik is one such attempt.

“Shikhandi” is a book of stories. Stories that have been forgotten – mostly intentionally I would think. Stories that celebrate the queer, the ones that do not differentiate between the masculine and the feminine, where form does not matter as much, where it is about fluidity and not rigidity of gender and where clearly it is about celebrating life. Devdutt tries to uncover stories in mythology about men and women, about gender bender, about situations where roles were reversed for good reason and sometimes for no reason at all.

To me, “Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t tell you” is all about liberation. While reading it, I felt liberated and maybe that is the purpose of this book. From Narada who forgot that he was a man, to Indra who took the form of a Brahmin to make love to his wife when he was away, to Krishna who cross-dresses in time of war and peace for various reasons to more Gods and Demons and Kings and Queens who are not rigid about sexuality and gender, “Shikhandi” is a work that transcends orientation and gender.

The writing is precise and concise. The stories can be read in a day and yet how can one understand Queerness for all that it is, in a day or a week or even a fortnight? To then connect it to mythology is another matter altogether. To then not be judgmental about it is far beyond another issue. Devdutt’s stories are not about intrigue. They are not about provoking for the sake of it. They are provocative because it is time we drop the blinders and look at the world different, away from our myopic vision and conditioning of what is wrong and what is right. The illustrations and foot-notes are trademark Pattanaik and work wonderfully in this book.

“Shikhandi” is a paean to the marginalized, to the differences (seemingly so), to the unseen and the not spoken about tales. After interviewing him for Jaya and after reading Jaya, I thought there was nothing like that book. I was wrong. In my opinion, it is “Shikhandi and Other Tales they don’t tell you” which is his best work. Go broaden your thinking. Read this book for sure.

Here is the book trailer:

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Interview with Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik and Modern Management infused with Mythological concepts seem to go hand in hand. He has always been at the forefront of exploring and breaking paradigms when it comes to looking at Mythology in the country or for that matter Management as well. With his new book, “Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management” he shatters all myths and at the same time urges you to look at management from a different perspective. The Indian perspective which cannot work sometimes on Western ideologies given the vast difference between Eastern and Western philosophies. Keeping this in mind, I decided to interview him and this is the result of that interaction.

Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik

1. Myth and Management. How did you think of connecting the two?

Myth is subjective truth. Management is about people. Every person has a subjective truth. So connecting the two made sense. Of course, if you think of myth as something to do with fantasy and religion then this connection seems incredible. Myths of the world are maps of the human mind; they reveal how different cultures approach life. Reading them helps us understand different societies.

People are slowly realizing that management has long ignored the culture lever making it rather
mechanistic.


2. Modern concepts of Management do not seem to recognize Mythology and its importance. How do you tackle this in your role as a Chief Belief Officer?

Modern management is based on science and mathematics. So it is assumed to be rational and universal. Only an outsider knows that it is steeped in Western thought, which is strongly shaped by Greek mythology and biblical mythology, something the West will vehemently deny. You see, the fish never sees the water. The bird does. As someone who has been studying mythology for years, this was so obvious. When I mapped it to business, I realized all the problems of business could be traced to this mythical root. When I presented it to business leaders, the ones who always sensed the difference intuitively loved my work. Then at the 2009 TED conference, the popularity of my talk indicated that everyone in the world sensed the relationship of culture and management principles, hence the exclusion of non-western cultural ideas.

Image 2 (1600 x 1066px)

3. What was the motivation behind “Business Sutra”?

Modern Management follows the biblical paradigm of defining the Promised Land (target) and moving towards it by following Commandments (tasks) or the Greek paradigm of challenging authority and forging a new path as hero (innovation and leadership). I wondered what Indian mythology would reveal. And I saw a whole different approach to targets, tasks, innovation and leadership.

4. This book is very different from your other works. How much did the book take from you and in what sense?

This was tough as it meant making a journey from Western management to Western mythology to Indian mythology to Indian management. I had to explain basics of management to those familiar with mythology and basics of mythology to those familiar with management. Mythology was especially tough as most books on the subject are written by European and American writers whose understanding of the subject is rather poor because of the Western linear bias.

5. You have almost created a niche audience for mythological books. How do you think they are accepting a book about looking at Indian Management differently?

I have a good readership in Management because of my columns in Corporate Dossier (Economic Times) and my CNBC-TV18 show, Business Sutra.

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6. “Business Sutra” breaks barriers all the time. Almost breaking paradigms. Was this intentional to the writing of the book? How did the book structure come along?

Well I did not seek to break barriers. I just wanted to draw attention to the incompleteness of current scholarship in matters related to management. Management today assumes that the military model followed by the Roman army and Jesuit missionaries is the ‘right way’ to do things. That sounds scary. At the heart of it seems to be about conquest (read growth) and domination (read leadership).

Something does not feel right about its spirit. Is an alternative discourse allowed? We want to propagate violent worldviews and there is a trend to dismiss alternate worldview as unrealistic and exotic. That is not healthy and not very wise either.

Structuring the book was very tough as I had to explain the meaning of belief, connect belief with mythology and then business, draw attention to Western mythology whose existence is for all intent and purposes denied, and then show how it was different from Indian mythology. One then had to enter the new world of Kama, Yama, Indra, Vishnu, Shiva and Daksha, and of Laskhmi, Saraswati and Durga. While most readers are sort of familiar with many of the words/ideas of the book, they do not either all the words, or understand it in depth. So there were challenges at every level.

6. Devdutt, the writer…

Writes every day for 2-3 hours…weeps at how little or how badly he has written….and struggles to make his ideas understood.

7. Devdutt, the Chief Belief Officer. How does he make sense of madness at the workplace? Where do the sutras then begin to show the way and how?

The workplace is not mad. We sign a contract which is essentially voluntarily domestication. For a payslip we do what we are told to do. But as humans we yearn for visibility; the organization is unfortunately not interested in our intelligence, only our obedience and our performance. So we feel invisible, restrained, frustrated and angry. We yearn for freedom and when that is not forthcoming, we
bitch about the organization, or indulge in politics, in order to feel special and powerful.

The sutras of the book aim to widen the gaze of the reader, understand what is actually happening at the workplace, the invisible currencies that are being exchanged. It is not just about target, tasks, rules and wealth, it is also about power and identity, something we rarely connect with the business world.

A workspace can become a battleground, if we don’t see what is happening beneath the superficial behaviour. Or, it has the potential to become a playground, where each one of us is growing as we do our tasks and reach our targets.


8. When does management begin and when does it take over what we have grown up with and believed all along?

Management today expects humans to give up all values they have at home and adopt new values in the office. This sounds bizarre but that seems to be trend. The assumption is that we have to articulate values; else we are value-less. We live in an age of political correctness where we have to say and do the right thing, whether we believe in it or not. This schizophrenic approach to work and life is supposed to make us more efficient, but it does not. It fractures us and the fault lines have started to show across organizations, industries and societies.

9. What is next on the cards?

I never interview and tell….:-) but we do have 330 million gods to write about and many more business practices to explore.

And thus ended, the fascinating talk with Dr. Pattanaik. It was truly a fantastic experience for me.

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Book Review: Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management by Devdutt Pattanaik

Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik Title: Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Aleph Books
ISBN: 978-81-923280-7-2
Genre: Non-Fiction, Management, Mythology
Pages: 437
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When you think of mythology and management, it becomes very difficult to connect the two. Doesn’t it? I am sure anyone would think it is impossible or close to being impossible, however that isn’t the case for Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, who when speaks of mythology, does not consider it any different from daily living. He doesn’t categorize or compartmentalize the concept at all. When Dr. Pattanaik writes or talk of mythology, he weaves it seamlessly into what we call living. He doesn’t treat it any different and may be that is the reason why we get his writing the way we do. It is simplistic and at the same time given the expertise, doesn’t come across as overbearing.

His new book, “Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management” aims at breaking all myths and vague ideas people have had about management in our country. He takes almost each concept one by one and bares it to its minimum, thereby rationally explaining to the reader, what works and what doesn’t and may be what could work. The book has structure and at the same time tells its readers to break all structures and forms of thinking, thereby learning to create new approaches, new Indian Approaches to Management, which we have probably been ignoring for a very long time.

“Business Sutra” is a difficult and yet an illuminating read. Dr. Pattanaik takes the reader through a chronological journey of his perception of management. The introduction of the book in itself is of twenty five pages, describing the need for such a book. He speaks of the design of the book and how he has tried to connect management to mythology and how it may work for some and may not work for others. At the same time, what I love about the book is that it isn’t preachy nor does it sound imposing.

The book is divided into three major sections, each section unraveling a different world for the reader. The book helps the reader read through structurally from decoding business beliefs of the Indian, the Chinese and the Western World to talking about the sutras of management and how they co-exist with mythology in the background. There are close to more than one hundred sutras and all aim at defining only one thing: To change the approach to management and at the same time talk of its connection to our roots through what is closest to our hearts and what we can connect with: Myths and Legends.

The wide gamut of the book sometimes would make the reader read it in bits and parts and that to me is the best way to enjoy this book as well. The references are way too many and that is what I enjoyed the most about the book – right from case studies which I could relate to from a working professional angle to the language which is simple and yet ensures the point is made, from a reader’s perspective. The balance that is struck is worth all of it.

“Business Sutra” is not your traditional book on management concepts. Devdutt Pattanaik takes it a step further with every turn of the page and you will realize it only when you read the book. The illustrations only enhance the value of the words and add more clarity to concepts. For instance, when he is explaining the sutra, “Mental Violence is also Violence” with an apt diagram, it sinks deep into the reader’s subconscious and from there on the reader can connect to the sutra with the story and the illustration in a better manner.

Overall, it was definitely a two thumbs up for me when it came down to reading and talking about “Business Sutra”. The approach is clear. The content is well-researched and solid and there is nothing which is out of place. The integration of mythology and the workplace is seamless and brilliantly executed. So for me the book worked well on almost all levels. A great read and again I say, you cannot read it in one stretch and one shouldn’t even try doing that. It should be read in bits and pieces and be savoured the way it is meant to be.

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