(Originally posted here with a slight difference)
How many authors do you know who in a volatile political and cultural environment can come up with a book with the very first statement as terse as:
Beware of a land where celibate men decide what is good sex.
On a second thought, there could not have been a better time to write this post than now, when feminism is gaining traction in our country and we are talking about breaking stereotypes. We are trying to rise above caste-discrimination, questioning long held beliefs that have made us exclude certain sections of society for long.
There could not have been a better time for Devdutt Pattanaik to write his new book either. I am talking about “Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You!” which is DP’s latest release, that mentions different tales from Indian Mythology that are around queerness or discovering queerness. This time DP doesn’t pick a character or an epic for a retelling, but he targets an entire section of mythology that has been conveniently ignored over generations, reasons debatable.
The book begins with simple definitions of queerness, patriarchy, feminism and even mythology, that are pertinent to DP’s writings. He believes in rolling the pitch every time he is about to bowl you over with his writings. While I think queerness is the epicenter of this book, the reason behind writing this book is more about breaking stereotypes of all kinds. Since there couldn’t have been a better aspect to start from than queerness as it is lesser known, mostly misinterpreted, highly doubted and largely ignored, DP hits the core when he picks queerness for the same. The best of all, he doesn’t just justify it as one would initially expect, he rather celebrates it and recognizes its presence over the ages. The book also mentions various examples of Greek and Biblical mythology that are either tangents to or are direct references to queerness, stories that you are less likely to be aware of unless you are a mythologist or an ardent reader of mythology.
As always, this post is not to discuss the stories mentioned in the book and spoil the fun of reading. DP narrates them in a far better manner, maintaining the interest and realizing the sensitivity of the matter at the same time. I write his post to express why you may read, or not read this book in the first place.
Why you may not read this book:
- You haven’t read any book by DP and mythology is not your thing. If that’s the case, you might not feel motivated to pick “Shikhandi And …..”. But honestly, understanding this book will still not be a challenge in case you pick it. But reading one or two of DP’s books before reading this will help you understand where he comes from. (If you understand the author’s mind even slightly, you enjoy the book heavily). I recommend Jaya, Sita or maybe even Business Sutra. And then reading this book will be icing on the cake.
- You’re too wise. You’ve realized that it’s only you who matters and no one else does. You’ve realized what your wisdom is THE wisdom and you don’t want to learn any further. (I don’t know why would you even read this post in the first place).
- You love to stay within your stereotypes. Enough said!
Why you may read this book:
- The more you have read, the more incomplete you have felt. You have realized that you know far lesser about things than you actually should. You want to explore more.
- You are an avid reader of mythology, or an ardent fan of DP, or maybe both. You can’t afford not reading it.
- You have read this post and you have understood it well.
In your quest for wisdom, this book can be one of the crucial steps, bringing to you ideas that you might have never thought of or maybe bringing old ideas with a freshly new perspective.