Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik|
(December 11, 1970 - living) - India
Defining himself "mythologist by passion, medical graduate by qualification, health communicator by profession", Devdutt was the youngest child and only son of Prafulla and Sabitri Pattanaik, born after two daughters and a gap of 8 years. He was born, raised and continues to live in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. Academically brilliant, his parents hoped he would become a doctor. He did, from Grant Medical College, Mumbai. But after obtaining his medical degree, Devdutt decided not to take up clinical practice.
He was confused, knowing what he did not want, but not what he wanted. So he appeared in the much-revered Union Public Service Commission Exams, cleared the tests that recruits the India's top bureaucrats, but refused to take up the assignment.
To earn money, he freelanced as a writer and illustrator in many popular lifestyle magazines such as Island, Society and Savvy. He even worked part-time as an editor of health magazines, such as My Doctor, putting his medical knowledge to good use. And also worked as an assistant to a behavioral scientist, Dr. Giri Shankar, who conducted corporate workshops on transforming attitudes.
In the mid-1990s, one of the magazine editors, Mr. Randhir Khare of Debonair, noticed Devdutt's natural ability to narrate stories from Indian and World mythology. Not just tell the stories but provide deep insight into their structures and probable meanings. He encouraged Devdutt to write articles in various local newspapers and magazines.
He introduced him to Mr. Arun Mehta, of VFS publications who suggested Devdutt write a book introducing Shiva, an intriguing Hindu god. Shiva - An Introduction, Devdutt's first book with its many illustrations and images was much appreciated by readers. This led to the publication of many books within the Introduction series: Vishnu, Devi, Hanuman and Lakshmi, all popular deities of the Hindu pantheon.
Devdutt decided to pursue a formal course on mythology and did the Post-Graduate Diploma in Comparative Mythology, offered by the Sanskrit Department of Mumbai University. Though he topped the course, he was disappointed. It did not give him any insight into this wonderful subject. Family obligations prevented him from pursuing his interest in American or European universities. So he decided to study on his own.
Devdutt developed a radical and unorthodox understanding of Indian mythology that correlated complex Indian philosophy to ancient Indian art and household rituals. He was encouraged by Mr. Parag Trivedi, who ran a cultural organization that demystified the classical arts called Sabrang, to give lectures on the subject. The lectures were hugely popular and led to him being invited to conduct workshops for various corporate houses, including banks and advertising agencies.
In 1998, Devdutt wrote the book Women in Indian Lore that was published as Goddesses in India: Five Faces of the Eternal Feminine by Inner Traditions, USA. It compiled all stories related to women in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology. This book introduced Devdutt to a number of stories where boundaries between sex and gender were blurred.
Understanding of queer mythology, came at a time when Devdutt was also freelancing for Tata Institute of Social Sciences that was in the process of developing a "Train the Trainer" module for people involved in AIDS/HIV projects. He was interacting with many Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Queer groups who were concerned about the general apathy and indifference in India to sexual minorities.
Devdutt's exposure to Queer narratives in Hindu lore and to gays and lesbians and hijras of Indian society, led him to write the book Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales From Hindu Lore. This was the first popular book that gave an insight into the meaning of Queer mythology within the context of the grand Hindu tradition, with sensitivity to the popular Hindu vision.
Devdutt also wrote an essay, "Homosexuality in Ancient India" which was published by Debonair in 2000. It was well received by the Gay community which hosted the article on the gaybombay website.
Currently, Devdutt is working on his book on Krishna and is dabbling into fiction based on mythology. Mythology remains his passion, but not the sole interest. Professionally, he is anything but the lecturer/writer. For the past five years he has been working in the health care industry, developing business processes for clinical research organizations, health care websites and hospitals. Since 2002 he is senior manager in a multinational pharmaceutical company.
Source: excerpts from: The LGBT Religious Archives Network - http://www.lgbtran.org/Pioneers.asp