DEVDUTT PATTANAIK | Author Interview


May 30, 2013

He believes that today’s management principles are derived mostly from biblical and Greek mythology. His latest book Business Sutra turns that around because it is based on the management principles derived from Indian mythology. The Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group; a mentor in the fields of leadership, entrepreneurship, branding and governance, we got the opportunity to interview the man himself – Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik.

BookGeeks: Our readers would love to know about Devdutt in his own words. A few words please.
Devdutt: I write and lecture on mythology, a subject of great depth much neglected and misunderstood in the world.

BookGeeks: We don’t see many people understanding the relevance of Mythology. What would you say to an atheist who believes Ramayana & Mahabharata to be just stories?
Devdutt: Your question reveals a common assumption: mythology has something to do with God. Mythology is study of subjective truth (myth) expressed through stories, symbols and rituals. Our subjective truth may make room for God or reject it completely. So there are theistic mythologies and atheistic ones. And yes, Ramayan and Mahabharat are just stories, just as all historical and ahistorical narratives are. It reveals how people think and function in society. It is a map of the mind. We don’t respect the mind and so reject maps of the mind as fiction.

Objective truth is often subjective truth of one group forced down the throats of another group. So what colonizers considers mutiny, the colony considers uprising. What is true?

BookGeeks: What drew you towards mythology? Any particular book or any situation or any personal experience?
Devdutt: I realized how we are trained to devalue our imagination and our subjectivity. Everyone is conditioned to believe in some kind of an objective truth out there there is right. You see this in books dealing with issues of society, religion, politics, economics and even science. The assumption that humans are rational and that their actions are rational was the greatest ‘myth’ of all; that we all had bought into.

BookGeeks: You believe & write about the relevance of Mythology in today’s world. Which ancient treatise do you consider to be the most relevant?
Devdutt: Where there are humans, there is myth. Where there is culture, there is myth. So you don’t have to study ‘ancient’ documents. Bollywood films are good sources of the popular subjective truths of people: how they see the world and locate themselves around it. A speech by Arundhati Roy or by Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi, is great raw material to reveal the myth each one of them inhabits, the myth that makes them believe they are heroes and saviors. If we had no myths, we would have no heroes, victims, villains or martyrs.

BookGeeks: Who is your favourite mythological character? Why?
Devdutt: I don’t have a favorite mythological character. Each character is a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. To understand one, you have to understand all. Each one constructs the other.

BookGeeks: Tell us something about “Business Sutra”.
Devdutt: Modern management is based on Western mythology, especially biblical and Greek mythology. Business Sutra makes this explicit and then seeks management principles that can be gleaned out of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist mythologies that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Western mythologies are achievement oriented and value the tangible over the intangible. Indian mythologies are more understanding oriented and value the intangible over the tangible. We have bought into the secular myth that business is only about wealth. That’s a truth; but it is not the truth. Business is also about power and identity; it is also about wisdom.

BookGeeks: Imagine a hypothetical scenario wherein you are the owner of an MNC. Who would be your CEO, CFO, VP (Marketing), VP (Business Development) and VP (Strategy)? All mythology characters please.
Devdutt: I can write the answer but you may understand it based on your assumptions of what these mythological characters are. That is unfortunately what most people tend to do: they assume their reading of Amar Chitra Katha makes them experts in Hindu mythology. That is cute and encouraging, but unfortunately incomplete, and often tragic. So bear this in mind when you read the following

BookGeeks: What would be your message to our readers?
Devdutt: Read, introspect, understand, before you assume.

BookGeeks: Any special message for
Devdutt: Geeks are the new cool dudes.