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#BookReview : Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

15 Aug

Shikhandi and other tales they don't tell you

I love reading Devdutt Pattanaik’s blog purely because his writing is simple, lucid and extremely informative interesting read. A simple mention of his name and I opted to read this one. Truly, I wonder why I never really read his other books before.
When I opted for this book I was curious about how queerness is dealt with in our scriptures. Also, seeing so many homophobes as friends I thought it would be a book worth reading and narrating to them later. And what a fantastic read this has been! The response I got from friends around, this book is a sure shot winner. I ended up buying and gifting this book to a colleague who truly loves mythology and if I am to believe her, she loved it too! That I think is the power of a really good book. It piques the interest in people and never lets them down.

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.

 

shikhandi and other tales radhakrishna

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1 Comment

Posted by on August 15, 2014 in books

 

One response to “#BookReview : Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

  1. Neha Sharma

    September 24, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    I have been reading Devdutt’s material over internet and in books since 4-5 years. He is the reason that I am a mythology fan now. His has a unique ability to link relevant stories from mythology to current scenario. And that’s what he does in his new book ‘Shikhandi’.
    The book is basically a compilation of 30 different stories from hindu mythology where queerness is discovered. This book is particularly different from his previous books in a way that it has all 30 stories have to be short, establish a conclusion that queerness was part of hindu mythology and we in current age are not comfortable with it because of social norms.
    While this book may be rated a ‘excellent’ for those who are new to hindu mythology and Devdutt but those who have been reading his stuff in past years can easily derive that this book is nothing but a summary of all queer stories he mentioned in his earlier books. So ‘some’ readers might feel that it is simply 30 stories being re-told. That’s the reason I completed reading this book in 2 weeks’ time.
    I would rate this book as a Good read rather than best. Devdutt has surely written better than this like Jaya, The pregnant king, Sita.

     

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