Right of expression has become the right to humiliate, says Devdutt Pattanaik

Mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik talks about myth and history, sexual repression in India, Charlie Hebdo and freedom of expression, among other things.

books Updated: Jan 21, 2015 23:01 IST
Vishakha Saxena
Vishakha Saxena
Hindustan Times
jaipur literature festival,jaipur literature fest,jlf

Physicist turned mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik can give religious and traditional conformists an existential crisis. During his session at the JLF, Pattanaik focused on the topic of "the truth" and its relationship with objectivity and subjectivity.

"Objectivity is an idea that stops us from acknowledging another individual's truth," he said adding that objectivity tends to make individuals judgemental.

Referring to the recently concluded Indian Science Congress, where outlandish claims were made, Pattanaik said the obsession with the past is to blame for the blurring of lines between myth and fact. "If you have data, prove it and no one will contest you," he said in an interview to HT, adding he didn't entirely reject the contentious summit.

"Who in life do you not support? It will reveal how intolerant you are," he said.

Watch Devdutt Pattanaik talk about sex, violence and crime

Pattanaik, who has written books like Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don't Tell You, which discusses alternate sexualities in Hindu myth, stressed that he hadn't received any hate for his work.

So does he think India is sexually repressed? "Which India are you talking about?" Pattanaik responded arguing that we assume we understand the country which treats sex in many different ways - for procreation and for pleasure. "For the first time in human history - not just Indian history - women are considered equal to men" he said. This change, he believes, had lead to resistance in the form of sex crimes.

Accepting and respecting another individual's "truth" also brought up the subject of the Charlie Hebdo attack that claimed 12 lives.

"Right of expression has become the right to humiliate you," he said. ''I have the right to heckle you, humiliate you, abuse you but you're not allowed to do anything except write about it. If I were to strike you physically, I become the outsider," he said.

But is violence the answer? "Violence is never the answer but life is about violence," he stated adding that a house cannot be built without burning the forest.

"If you don't want violence then become a hermit."

For full coverage of Jaipur Literature Festival, visit: http://read.ht/nUE

First Published: Jan 21, 2015 20:12 IST