Devdutt Pattanaik’s latest book, Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You is a collection of stories about gender and sexual identity – Shikhandi, is a fine example which finds mention in common folklore finds mention. For the uninitiated, Shikhandi was born a woman but raised as a man, Krishna, who became a woman for one day to become wife to a doomed man, Chudala who became a man so that her husband would accept her as a teacher, and so many such tales are featured in the book.
For a former literature student, this book has been a wonderful read. It starts with 2 short essays: ‘Appreciating Queerness’ and ‘The Discovery and Invention of Queerness’. Pattanaik’s definition of Queerness is this– “Queerness questions what constitute male and female.” This definition set the tone for the rest of the book, which intends to explore, not assert anything. This flexibility of thought is much appreciated and speaks volumes for the kind of thought that is lacking in our present day society.
Written simplistically yet painstakingly detailed it contains many examples to support their message: the idea that “Males and females are distinct and different, and each must behave in a certain specific manner, otherwise they are aberrations against nature!” is a modern view. What I loved is that there were references to Buddhist, Jain, Greek, Chinese, and many others – featuring people who question their gender identity and test the boundaries of sexual behavior. This book does not seem preachy or condescending and neither is it a moral peace. The unassuming open minded approach made the book such a wonderful read and of course the retelling of tales brought to light a perspective which I like many others did not know existed.
What I totally loved was the illustrations, the pictoral representation is lovely much like his blogs. I’m told he himself draws them and that truly is amazing! It was a fun, interesting and totally lovely read. Highly recommended.
This book is a part of Flipkart’s book review program.
You can buy the book here.